The west is rightly known for mountain views and desert vistas. Many of these landscapes are managed by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on behalf of all Americans. But something else is a major part of the region as well – tens of thousands of oil and gas wells and their associated infrastructure.
More than 90 percent of oil and gas production on BLM lands comes from the Western U.S. The tax and royalty revenue generated by this production is used to fund local infrastructure needs –schools, roads and other improvements — in rural and tribal communities. But due to outdated policies (they have not been significantly revised in 30 years), too much of our natural gas has been going to waste. That means these communities, and American taxpayers in general, are losing out.
In fact, in 2013, oil and gas companies threw away $330 million worth of the public’s gas according to a recent report – shortchanging the communities that rely on the revenue from these resources most. Read More
Questions about if and how hydraulic fracturing activities (or “fracking” to some) can contaminate drinking water have been top-of-mind for many since the practice started getting widespread public attention about a decade ago. Recognizing the validity of those concerns, EPA undertook a study to see how the full ‘hydraulic fracturing water cycle’ – which includes water withdrawals, chemical use and mixing, well injection, waste water management and disposal — could potentially impact our drinking water resources. In a EPA draft assessment released last fall, the agency summarized its results, saying researchers “did not find evidence that [fracking] mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.”
EPA’s draft assessment synthesized valuable information and explored a number of key areas of concern. But EDF didn’t agree with the way EPA summarized its findings. And it turns out, after hearing from EDF and other experts across the country, neither do EPA’s advising scientists.
Now, through ongoing review by the Science Advisory Board, the agency is getting feedback, yet again, from dozens of concerned parties (including EDF) with vested interest in making sure EPA gets this assessment right. Here are three things to keep in mind.
Southern California is now in month three of one of the country’s worst environmental disasters. In October 2015, a natural gas storage well operated by SoCal Gas sprung a massive leak hundreds of feet underground, releasing nearly 1,400 tons of gas into the air each day at its peak. Thousands of local residents impacted by noxious fumes and oily mist have been evacuated from the communities around the Aliso Canyon storage field. Because the leak is so large and technically complex, SoCal Gas has been working for months to fix it – so far without success.
In January, California Governor Jerry Brown declared a State of Emergency because of the ongoing leak. In addition to addressing the immediate disaster at Aliso Canyon, Gov. Brown ordered emergency regulations for the state’s natural gas storage industry and has directed several state agencies and commissions to prepare and submit reports and propose how to prevent similar leaks at similar sites across the state. Read More
The Natural Gas STAR Methane Challenge Program unveiled last week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is a perfect example of what can go wrong when the agency tries too hard to entice an unwilling industry to engage.
For years, EPA has offered voluntary “pollution prevention” programs to encourage companies to achieve environmental goals faster or cheaper than they might under regulations alone. Done right, voluntary programs stimulate innovation and reward true leaders. But weak efforts accomplish nothing, handing out laurels for token efforts that amount to business as usual – or less.
We’re less than a month into 2016, and there are already signs that this could be the year the United States finally gets serious about addressing methane pollution from the oil and gas industry.
Some strong first steps in 2015 got the ball rolling, and now attention-grabbing events like the massive methane leak in Southern California and the announcement that 2015 was the warmest year on record are opening people’s eyes to the urgency of tackling this potent climate-forcing pollution.
Great Strides Made in 2015
Many important first steps to curb oil and gas methane pollution were taken in 2015, most notably, the Obama administration setting a goal of reducing this pollution 40 to 45 percent by 2025. To help achieve this goal, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in August proposed a national methane emissions standard for newly built oil and gas sources. Read More
In an important step forward in curbing methane emissions from the nation’s oil and gas sector, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today announced a regulatory proposal aimed at wasteful practices that shortchange taxpayers, squander energy resources and threaten the Earth’s climate. The proposal, which will apply to both new and existing oil and gas facilities, begins to fill an important gap left by the EPA in August when that agency proposed to reduce emissions only from future facilities, ignoring the millions of oil and gas emissions sources already in operation.
Oil and gas companies that operate on our nation’s federal and tribal lands are exploiting a resource that belongs to the public and the Native American tribes. These operators should be held to the highest standards when it comes to avoiding the waste of the resource and minimizing the pollution from their activities.
Also posted in Methane Tagged BLM, regulations