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Methane rule before U.S. Senate attracts Colorado input

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Coloradans are getting in the fight over repealing newly enacted rules to reduce methane emissions from oil and natural gas wells on public lands.

The rules, published in November, would require companies to capture methane they leak or vent. Besides keeping gases that contribute to global warming out of the atmosphere, proponents say the methane amounts to hundred of millions in royalties that would support local governments.

The Senate is expected to take up the repeal passed by the House.

The Colorado Petroleum Council said Thursday the cost of compliance could shut down 40 percent of federal wells, which would cut much deeper into government royalties. A 1 percent loss could cut payments to the government by $14 million. The lost royalties to flaring are estimated at between $3 million and $10 million, according to the Petroleum Council.

“Companies in Colorado operate under some of the most stringent rules in the country to produce clean, safe, affordable energy while being good environmental stewards,” Tracee Bentley, executive director of the Colorado Petroleum Council, said in a statement. “These declining revenues would directly impact state and local governments. Such a drop in production would reduce the availability of affordable energy to consumers.”

The Colorado Petroleum Council is an industry group, a division of American Petroleum Institute.

Jessica Goad, the spokeswoman for Conservation Colorado, the state’s largest environment group, noted that rules adopted in Colorado three years ago were the model for the federal rules.

Even if the federal rules are struck down, Colorado’s rule would remain in place.

“It was only three years ago that the oil and gas industry agreed to similar rules that served as the model for the nation,” Goad said in an e-mail exchange. “The BLM’s methane rules are critically important to Colorado for two reasons: They save taxpayers money and send funding to local communities impacted by drilling, and they ensure that Colorado’s air is not polluted by drilling in other states like Utah and Wyoming.

“Sens. Gardner and Bennet must vote against this measure and do what’s right for Colorado, not just for oil lobbyists.”

In its Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties and Resource Conservation rule, BLM said:

“Venting, flaring, and leaks waste a valuable resource that could be put to productive use, and deprive American taxpayers, tribes, and States of royalty revenues. In addition, the wasted gas may harm local communities and surrounding areas through visual and noise impacts from flaring, and contribute to regional and global air pollution problems of smog, particulate matter, and toxics (such as benzene, a carcinogen). Finally, vented or leaked gas contributes to climate change, because the primary constituent of natural gas is methane, an especially powerful greenhouse gas (GHG), with climate impacts roughly 25 times those of carbon dioxide (CO2), if measured over a 100-year period, or 86 times those of CO2, if measured over a 20-year period.[3] Thus, measures to conserve gas and avoid waste may significantly benefit local communities, public health, and the environment.”

The Bureau of Land Management allows oil and gas development on about 32 million acres out of the 245 million acres of public lands it oversees.

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