Late yesterday, the Department of the Interior released a draft rule to replace the federal methane waste rule that was finalized in November of 2016 and suspended by the Trump Administration from taking effect in December 2017. In response, Ms. Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense had the following statement:
“With this draft rule, the Administration is putting the convenience and wishes of industry above their duty to protect the interests of federal taxpayers and the natural resources all Americans own. By derailing the implementation of the 2016 Methane Waste Rule, Secretary Zinke chose to dismiss the very real issue of natural gas waste from oil and gas operations on federal lands, perpetuating the problem and the loss of federal royalty revenue. This is a far cry from the Administration’s purported goal to provide taxpayers with a fair return for public resources. The Administration still has a chance to course correct and stop methane waste and taxpayer losses, but time is running out.”
Taxpayers continue to lose millions of dollars in lost royalties on wasted natural gas. Over the last ten years, more than $1 billion worth of natural gas was vented, flared, or otherwise lost on federal lands. Oil and gas operators were not charged a royalty on nearly 90 percent of that gas. In December, the Trump Administration suspended the Bureau of Land Management’s 2016 Methane Waste Rule from taking effect until 2019. As a result, federal oil and gas management policy reverted to vague guidance written in 1979, decades before the fracking boom caused a spike in both gas production and gas waste on federal lands. The Interior Department stated the suspension was in place until the 2016 rule could be revisited. Now, with the release of the draft rule, it is clear this Administration’s goal is to largely revert to the NTL-4A guidance from 1979 for years to come. In 2014, TCS published our first report reviewing the NTL4-A and found that taxpayers were losing tens of millions of dollars per year on natural gas that was leaked, vented, and flared royalty-free. Unless dramatically revised, the draft rule released yesterday will lock taxpayers into losing millions more in lost royalties.