Big Win: Senate rejects repeal of Methane Waste Prevention Rule

The Senate narrowly blocked a resolution on May 10, 2017 to repeal the Bureau of Land Management’s Methane Waste Prevention Rule — with three Republicans joining every Democrat to preserve the rule.

The 51-to-49 vote marked the first time in Donald Trump’s presidency that Republicans failed in their attempt to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to roll-back Obama-era rules. Fourteen other CRA resolutions have rescinded Obama Administration regulations this year. WORC member groups were integral in securing the votes of several Western senators including Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), John Tester (D-Mont.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo). This was a victory to savor, and that is exactly what WORC groups did after working for months to stop the roll back of the rule.

Dakota Resource Council and Fort Berthold P.O.W.E.R Chair Lisa Deville applauded Heitkamp’s vote and expressed disappointment for Sen. John Hoeven’s (R-N.D.) vote to repeal the Methane Waste Prevention Rule:

“The people of Fort Berthold are severely impacted by oil and gas extraction. We need safeguards that will protect our finite resources and clean air, water, and land. I thank Senator Heitkamp for voting to protect our people and future generations.

“We are very disappointed that Hoeven is willing to forego the option for tribes to protect their sovereignty and allow extraction companies a free pass to waste. It’s obvious Hoeven is influenced by the energy industry and is willing to protect their interest first. We thank Senator Heitkamp for her commitment to our tribes and the people of North Dakota.”

Western Colorado Congress leader Roger Steen thanked Bennet and criticized Sen. Gardner (R-Colo) for not standing up to oil and gas interests:

“Western Colorado Congress and our members across the region are pleased to see the Senate, including our own Colorado Senator Bennet, side with taxpayers and public land owners across the country to keep the BLM methane rule intact. However, we are disappointed to see Senator Gardner fail to stand with Coloradans on this. His vote to continue debate on the rule certainly gives the impression he was ready to kill it.

“This rule has wide spread support from people across the West and across the political spectrum. It saves taxpayers money on lost royalties that are literally being flared, leaked, and vented into the air from public oil and gas leases on public lands. The only real entity opposing the rule was the industry, which spent millions of dollars trying to kill it. It is good to see that common sense protections supported by a majority of people across the country can still win the day in Congress.”

Northern Plains Resource Council leader Pat Wilson celebrated the positive impact the Methane Waste Prevention Rule will have on directly affected communities in Montana:

“Wasting gas is an extremely short-sighted practice that not only takes potential tax revenue from communities that could sorely use it, especially to address our infrastructure needs, it also poses serious threats to our health. Keeping the BLM rule is good news for people living in oil country.

“The BLM protections struck close to home for me and my wife. Our family cattle ranch sits east of Bainville, Montana, placing it in the Montana portion of the Bakken oil field and amid extensive oil and gas development. We live with the impacts of that. I have driven by countless oil well flares spouting huge flames into thin air, because, unlike our neighbors in North Dakota, the State of Montana has very few controls on methane waste. Although some of these wells are connected to gas collection lines, some are not, and ALL are flared at least part of the time. Moreover, all wells, especially Bakken wells “outgas” both methane and VOCs from their storage tanks.

“Since the Bakken boom began we’ve had increasing amounts of respiratory trouble in our cow herd. Bakken oil workers have been found dead on location, slumped over tanks they have been monitoring. My stepson, whose job involves checking oil wells, often has to wear breathing apparatus on location. My wife has to use her inhaler two or three times a day. But when we’re in New Mexico she might use an inhaler two or three times a season.”

Although this victory should be celebrated, there are still many hurdles before Methane Waste Prevention Rule is safe. At present, the rule is being challenged in the courts and Trump instructed the Department of Interior to replace the rule a new rule. WORC is involved in the lawsuit as an intervenor and plans to participate in the possible rulemaking process.

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