The Department of the Interior has unveiled its final rule for flaring natural gas produced on federal lands as part of the agency’s last-minute attempt to finish a slew of regulations before President Barack Obama leaves office.
Interior’s rule aims to reduce flaring or venting of natural gas being pulled out of federal lands and clarifies when companies have to pay the government when flaring gas.
It’s part of Obama’s push to meet his pledge to the United Nations to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025 as part of the Paris global warming agreement — an agreement President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to “cancel” when taking office.
“With the Trump presidency just months away, President Obama is frantically trying to impose his climate agenda on the American people,” Tom Pyle, president of the free-market Institute for Energy Research, said in a statement.
The oil and gas industry has already sued the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over the flaring rule, arguing it’s duplicative and unnecessary. Environmentalists, on the other hand, welcomed the rule as a way to fight global warming.
“These safeguards will help ensure our public lands are managed in the public’s interest. Today’s action reaffirms the fact that it is imperative for our government to enact common-sense safeguards to protect the future of America and its public lands,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement.
The Western Energy Alliance and the Independent Petroleum Association of America sued BLM over the rule Tuesday. The plaintiffs argued companies drilling on public lands already have to comply with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) air regulations, and BLM’s new rule contradicts current standards.
BLM has gone beyond the authority delegated to it by Congress since EPA was given the responsibility to regulate air quality, plaintiffs argue.
BLM’s new rule highlights the tension between the Obama administration and the energy industry that’s only grown in his second term.
Obama has praised booming U.S. natural gas production for spurring economic growth and lowering energy prices, but he’s also made a concerted effort to put forth new regulations that experts say will only make it more expensive to pull gas out of the ground.
“With one foot out the door, bureaucrats and political operatives in the Obama administration are working to drive up the cost of producing energy on federal lands,” said Pyle.
Environmentalists have pushed natural gas flaring rules as a way to curb hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations across the country. Activists complain fracking causes water contamination, despite an abundance of evidence to the contrary.
Activists also claim fracking for natural gas, which releases methane, exacerbates global warming, despite falling emissions from fracking operations.
EPA found that emissions from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, fell 81 percent from 2012 to 2014.
BLM’s own estimates say its rule would reduce 0.0092 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming, meaning the impact on projected temperature rise would be immeasurable.
“The end of this administration’s anti-energy agenda cannot come soon enough,” Pyle said.
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