With hours remaining in the public comment period on the Bureau of Land Management’s proposal to gut the Methane Waste Rule, a new analysis of comments posted to regulations.gov shows near unanimous opposition to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s plans.
As of Monday afternoon, BLM had received more than 407,000 comments on the proposed rule change, with over 130,000 of those comments posted online.
The Center for Western Priorities performed a sentiment analysis on a random sample of 2,000 of those comments, and found 99.8 percent of them were opposed to the proposed rollback of the Methane Waste Rule. Just 0.2 percent of the public comments encouraged Secretary Zinke to move forward with his plans to allow more venting and flaring of methane from oil and gas drilling on American public lands.
Secretary Zinke’s proposal would eviscerate the Methane Waste Rule, an Obama-era policy that required oil and gas companies to capture and pay royalties on methane produced during oil drilling. Methane is the primary constituent in natural gas. Before the rule, drillers could vent or burn off that methane, a practice that contributed to climate change and denied American taxpayers of the value of publicly-owned methane.
A congressional attempt to repeal the Methane Waste Rule failed in May 2017 on a bipartisan vote. Despite this, Secretary Zinke moved ahead with an industry-backed proposal that would eliminate the key provisions of the rule. The public comment period on Zinke’s proposal opened in February 2018.
As the Center for Western Priorities’ advocacy director, Jesse Prentice-Dunn, told reporters today, “Secretary Zinke is going to need a pair of earplugs to drown out the overwhelming opposition to his plan to undermine safeguards that limit methane waste from oil and gas wells on public lands. The only rational response to this overwhelming public sentiment is to uphold existing methane waste rules and end the industry-driven assault on even the most reasonable protections.”
Unfortunately, if history is a guide, Secretary Zinke is unlikely to listen to the American people. He has previously ignored overwhelming public comments in support of national monuments and bipartisan sage-grouse protection plans.
Methodology: The Center for Western Priorities downloaded all 131,502 comments posted to the regulations.gov docket as of 10:30 am MT Monday. 2,000 of those comments were selected at random and each was individually analyzed for support or opposition to the proposed BLM Methane Waste Rule change. The analysis has a margin of error of ±2.2%. CWP’s full analysis toolchain is available on request.