NYS A.G. SENDS JOINT LETTER TO U.S. SENATE OPPOSING RESOLUTION TO VOID METHANE GAS SAFEGUARDS
NEW YORK - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, along with the Attorneys General of Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont; the California Environmental Protection Agency; and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer opposing a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would void important safeguards that are vital to controlling the leaking, venting, and flaring of methane from oil and natural gas developments on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Methane is a potent climate change pollutant.
The Mineral Leasing Act obligates the federal government to ensure that any operators “use all reasonable precautions to prevent waste of oil or gas.” On November 15, 2016, the Bureau of Land Management announced it had finalized its updated regulations to reduce the waste of natural gas from flaring, venting, and leaks from oil and gas production operations on public and tribal lands. The final rule applies to existing and newly proposed oil and gas operations.
The BLM Methane Rule is estimated to save enough gas to supply up to about 740,000 households each year. Overall, the rule will reduce flaring by an estimated 49 percent and venting and leaks by roughly 35 percent, as compared to 2014 rates. Eliminating the BLM Methane Rule would potentially result in an additional 180,000 tons of methane emissions per year, roughly equivalent to pollution of up to 950,000 vehicles—or roughly 2.5% of New York’s total annual emissions of greenhouse gases.
Estimates from the Government Accountability Office predict that rolling back the BLM Methane Rule would cost states, tribes and federal taxpayers as much as $23 million annually in royalty revenues that are lost to uncontrolled venting, flaring, and leaking. Overall, the rule can potentially save hundreds of millions over the next decade, including savings from the recovery and sale of natural gas and public health costs.
Because the disapproval of a rule under the CRA also means that an agency cannot issue any substantially similar rules, the States expressed their significant concern that such disapproval here could be construed to indefinitely bar BLM from regulating in the area of resource waste prevention—a task which it is statutorily mandated to perform.
A.G. Schneiderman has made clear that he stands ready to use the full power of his office to compel enforcement of our nation’s environmental laws. In January, he joined eight other A.G.’s in sending a letter urging members of the U.S. Senate Environmental and Public Workers Committee to reject the nomination of Oklahoma A.G. Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA. He also spoke out against President Trump’s ordered freeze of EPA grants and contracts. In December, Schneiderman led a coalition of 19 states and localities calling on President-elect Trump to continue the federal government’s defense of the Clean Power Plan and reject the “misguided” advice to discard the plan.
A.G. Schneiderman has initiated litigation along with states across the country to defend critical environmental and clean energy policies, including the Clean Power Plan, the “Waters of the U.S.” rule, and EPA regulations to reduce emissions of methane in the oil and gas industry.