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Heidi Heitkamp, methane rule
North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

Methane rule pits ND leaders against one another

The U.S. Senate rejected a resolution to revoke the Obama-era rule to limit methane emissions from oil and gas production on federal lands, reports Reuters. The inability to revoke the law is seen as a direct blow to the Trump and his ability to “free the drilling industry from what he sees as excessive environmental regulation.” On the campaign trail and after taking office, Trump has repeatedly promised to remove what he believes is unnecessary regulations that keep America from energy independence and restoring jobs and prosperity.

In a news release from the North Dakota Petroleum Council today, President Ron Ness said that the failure of the repeal of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) final rules regarding methane emissions on federal and tribal lands is “an affront to North Dakota and state primacy.” Ness also said the rule will provide no environmental benefits and will increase costs for state and federal governments and the industry, increasing the burden on federal employees and reducing their ability to do their jobs.

While Ness said the industry supports the goals of capturing gas and reducing waste, the rule is “duplicative and unnecessary” and comes at “an enormous cost to the state’s economy, tax revenues and private mineral owners.”

North Dakota’s own Heidi Heitkamp (D), voted against the repeal to the disappointment of the NDPC. Ness stated:

Just yesterday, Senator Heitkamp applauded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to grant the state primacy and regulatory authority over CO2 injection wells and the certainty it would bring for North Dakota energy. Her decision today is a complete reversal of that stance. North Dakota already has some of the most comprehensive regulations addressing flaring and waste in the nation. Over the past two years, North Dakota has adopted a series of strict gas capture targets. At the same time, the industry has voluntarily made huge strides in natural gas capture by investing more than $13 billion in natural gas infrastructure since 2006. As a result, flaring has declined by more than 54 percent in just three years even as natural gas production has increased. This progress will only be threatened by the continued uncertainty and bureaucratic red tape brought on by the BLM rule, discouraging innovation and complicating the process for approving infrastructure that will ultimately ensure the capture of more of our valuable natural gas resources.

Congressman Kevin Cramer also took a jab at Sen. Heitkamp, who voted along party lines. He thanked Sen. John Hoeven for suppporting the repeal, directly after admonishing Heitkamp without actually naming her. He said:

It’s a huge missed opportunity to protect our energy jobs in Western North Dakota and across America, and any senator who voted against this CRA should be ashamed of themselves.

In another huge surprise, John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, also voted against the repeal, along with fellow Republicans Lindsey Graham (SC) and Susan Collins (Maine).

“While I am concerned that the BLM rule may be onerous, passage of the resolution would have prevented the federal government, under any administration, from issuing a rule that is ‘similar’,” Reuters reported McCain said in a statement.

In addition to NDPC’s disdain for the ruling, the American Petroleum Institute and Western Energy Alliance have also made clear they believe the current methane rules are unnecessary.

Environmental groups, on the other hand, view the repeal’s blockage as a win.

Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society, said, “In recent months, thousands of Americans asked the Senate to stand up for clean air and against the oil lobby, and their efforts were successful today,” he said.

A tweet from the Environmental Defense Fund sums up the view of many who fought hard to keep the rule in place:

But to those who see duplicative, restrictive regulation as choking out the oil and gas industry and retaining control at a federal level, common sense meant it’s repeal.


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