Westerners Fear GOP’s ‘Morally Outrageous’ BLM Rule Rollback 

BY ON February 3, 2017

Our colleague, Matt Oberhoffner brought this article from E&E News to our attention because it features his friend, and a good friend to many in the rural NW New Mexico community, Don Schreiber.

From Matt:

“He’s got a ranch in rural NW New Mexico. There are oil and gas operations on both his private ranchland (split estate) and his BLM allotments. He lives under the methane cloud, and he’s found leaks on his property that he’s had to report to companies to come out and fix. The BLM rule has real world consequences for people like Don, and all the folks quoted in the article below.”

Westerners Fear GOP’s ‘Morally Outrageous’ BLM Rule Rollback
Pamela King

A cloud of residue lingers over a methane flare west of Don Schreiber's New Mexico ranch.

A cloud of residue lingers over a flare west of Don Schreiber’s New Mexico ranch. Photo courtesy of Don Schreiber E&E News

As Congress prepares to strike down an Obama administration rule limiting natural gas releases on public lands, Western communities banking on federal protections against methane venting and flaring are concerned the regulation they fought for years to implement will soon disappear into thin air.

Republicans in Congress are invoking their authority under the Congressional Review Act to repeal rules finalized during President Obama’s last months in office, including several regulations opposed by the energy industry. The Senate yesterday voted to kill an Interior Department rule designed to protect waterways from coal mining pollution, and it began debate on a second measure that would kill a Securities and Exchange Commission anti-corruption rule requiring disclosure of oil and gas industry payouts to governments (E&E News PM, Feb. 2).

The House today considers a resolution that would wipe from the books the Bureau of Land Management’s Methane and Waste Prevention Rule, which aims to prevent methane venting, flaring and leakage during oil and gas production.

New Mexico rancher Don Schreiber said he is incensed by the possibility.

“The thought of people without a vulnerable exposure, without exposing their own lives, the lives of their families, their wives, daughters, children, to this threat is infuriating to me and so outside anything that’s reasonable or just,” he said.

Schreiber said he has been struggling for years to balance conservation of his Devil’s Spring Ranch in the gas-rich San Juan Basin against extraction operations. He helped launch the Open Space Pilot Project, a partnership with BLM and ConocoPhillips Co. to drill using only existing well pads and road infrastructure. The project was designed to reduce the industry’s landscape footprint by 90 percent, former BLM acting Director Mike Poole wrote in a 2010 letter.

The bureau’s flaring rule is helping shrink a different kind of footprint — one that stretches across the Western sky, Schreiber said. Natural gas is constantly leaking, venting and burning from wells and other infrastructure on and near his property, sending benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene — collectively known as BTEX — into the environment, he said.

“Those insults to our health, air quality, wildlife and climate go on around the clock, and we’re on the sharp end of the stick,” Schreiber said. “We ride our horses right into those BTEX discharges.”

He’ll take to Capitol Hill next week to make a case for keeping the BLM rule.

“We know that the methane waste rule removed so much of that vulnerability,” Schreiber said. “The leaking, venting and flaring preventions are known technologies. It doesn’t take a rocket ship launcher to fix that stuff. It’s like a drip at your kitchen sink, there’s plumbing there, and you can fix that.”

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TOPICS: Fracking, Natural Gas, New Mexico