Congress’ Newest Proposal: Let Oil and Gas Industry Intentionally Waste Taxpayer Money

With the election of Donald Trump to President, fossil fuel companies are feeling empowered to ensure Congress rolls back the progress made in the past eight years in public lands energy policy.

Unfortunately, as Congress begins checking off items on the priority list provided to them by their pals in the oil and gas industry, it seems that a methane waste rule recently issued by the Bureau of Land Management is one of their highest priorities.

Oil & gas companies are throwing away taxpayer dollars

According to a recent study from ICF International, $330 million is wasted annually from intentional venting and flaring on public and tribal lands. BLM’s policy, known as the Methane and Waste Prevention Rule, or just the methane rule, is designed to prevent the waste of natural gas from federal and tribal lands.

BLM updated this regulation because under the Mineral Leasing Act, it is obligated to ensure that a person or company operating on public lands “use all reasonable precautions to prevent waste of oil or gas developed in the land.” (Sec. 16 amended) BLM must make sure that taxpayer resources are used for public good, and its methane waste rule will require companies to capture wasted gas for use in American homes and businesses.

In addition, captured gas incurs royalties — wasted gas does not — so capturing wasted gas will provide millions of dollars to western communities for roads, schools, and needed infrastructure improvements.

Yet Congress is considering repealing BLM’s methane rule through the Congressional Review Act, putting the priorities of the oil and gas industry ahead of American taxpayers.

Extreme & reckless endangerment of commonsense policy

The Congressional Review Act is an extreme and rarely used tool that circumvents the standard bill process. Besides being expedited, a CRA resolution of disapproval is excluded from the possibility of filibustering or amending.

Because it basically renders previous public sentiment and submitted comments irrelevant, the CRA is an extreme and rarely used tool. In fact, since its passage in 1996, the CRA has only been used once successfully.

That’s because federal agencies were created and are managed with the specific intent and expertise of creating regulations that are smart and beneficial to the American people, and Congress should take this expertise into account.

Ultimately, instead of deferring to the experts in agencies who have gone through a painstaking and stakeholder-informed process to craft regulations, the CRA gets rid of a rule that typically takes years to develop, by pushing it through a quick, little-understood, underhanded process, capped with a quick signature from the President.

In terms of BLM’s methane rule, that means that Congress could easily, and with no public review, wipe out more than three years of work spent preparing the rule and gathering stakeholder input, including 8 public forums and over 300,000 public comments.

The American people cannot let Congress give away our shared assets to entrenched, already-wealthy fossil fuel interests.

Congress is selling out the American people to help the oil and gas industry

Congress has a choice: Does it do the bidding of the oil and gas industry, or does it protect the American taxpayers?

More than $330 million of natural gas is wasted each year on public and tribal lands. This money should be going to taxpayers and local communities and tribal governments to use for schools, health care, and needed infrastructure improvements. But the oil and gas industry would rather our money get wasted instead of investing in American jobs and the American taxpayer.

The ironic part is that this rule will create jobs. Efforts to cut methane waste have put American entrepreneurs to work creating innovative, cutting-edge technologies to make reductions economically feasible. A 2014 report by Datu Research found that the emerging methane mitigation sector now comprises jobs in over 500 locations, across 46 states.

If Congress wants to debate prioritizing the interests of the American Petroleum Institute and the oil and gas industry over the interests of the American taxpayer, that is a debate worth having. BLM’s methane waste regulation is a smart, common-sense way to ensure that the American people see a fair return on the development of their shared resources.

We all need to be sure that members of Congress do not succeed in their quest to fulfill the wish list of the oil and gas industry at the expense of the American people.