Remember the old adage waste not, want not? Apparently, some in Congress have forgotten it. There is a strong push–fueled by the oil and gas industry–to reverse a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rule that requires oil and gas companies to be responsible and capture the natural gas that they extract from our public lands. The rule was needed because these companies have been cutting corners and wasting a lot of gas through flaring and leaks. Not only does wasted gas represent a big source of air pollution, no royalties are paid on a resource that belongs to all Americans.
Any true conservative should support efforts to prevent waste, especially waste that is costing taxpayers a bundle. Unfortunately, some lawmakers in Congress who profess to be conservative are trying to repeal the BLM rule through the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The House of Representatives already bowed to the oil and gas lobby by passing a CRA resolution rolling back the rule. Now, this issue is before the Senate.
CRS maintains that there is nothing conservative about waste or pollution and that BLM’s methane waste rule should remain in place. You can hear CRS board member Steve Bonowski from Colorado discuss the issue here, Western Officials Push U.S. Senators to Keep BLM Methane Rules, and CRS President David Jenkins discusses it here: Conservatives Defend BLM Natural Gas Waste Rule.
The BLM, which oversees oil and gas development on nearly 250 million acres of public lands, is required to prevent the waste of public resources that belong to all Americans. To fulfill this mandate, over the past few years the agency went through a rulemaking process, including reviewing thousands of public comments and holding listening sessions across the country. In November the agency published the result of all that work: a new set of guidelines known as the Methane and Waste Prevention Rule. The rule, which is modeled after a state rule Colorado that has been very successful in reducing waste, even as drilling continues to increase. Having a nationwide standard makes sure that when oil and gas is produced on our public lands, companies are using best practices to minimize natural gas waste.
President Roosevelt surely would have approved. As he wisely told Congress in 1907, “To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them.”
Unfortunately, special interests and lobbyists are calling the shots on this issue with too many supposedly “conservative” members of Congress—in defiance of a longstanding Republican conservation ethic.
The American Petroleum Institute (API), the oil and gas industry’s chief lobbying arm, has doubled down on efforts to eliminate BLM’s wasted gas rule, declaring shortly after the election that overturning it was a top priority. API has spent more than $13 million on lobbying over the last two years. And according to The New York Times, the energy industry spends about $300 million a year lobbying Congress, deploying an army of three lobbyists for each member.
Apparently, API doesn’t care that the Methane Waste Rule will save an estimated $330 million worth of natural gas annually that, until now, has been wasted from our public lands.
And since natural gas is a resource owned by the American people, a portion of that amount would be returned to the federal treasury and to states where the gas was produced in the form of royalties. All told, taxpayers will gain $800 million over 10 years—if the rule is left intact by conservatives who should not even be considering overturning it.
Anyone who shares the American stewardship ethic, as great conservatives like presidents Reagan and Roosevelt did, should recognize that BLM’s wasted gas rule makes sense.
By using the CRA to reverse the BLM’s wasted gas rule, lawmakers who are advancing API’s agenda would also be prohibiting the agency from ever creating a similar rule again.
In the West, where most of the drilling for oil and gas on our shared public lands occurs, the idea of preventing waste is incredibly popular. A recent survey found that 81 percent of western voters, including a whopping 84 percent of Republicans, want to keep BLM’s wasted gas rule in place.
This is a battle of genuine conservative values and voter preference versus the oil and gas industry. How your senator votes will speak volumes about their priorities.