State Response Under Changing Federal Methane Regulations

A giant olive-green oil rig dips up and down in a desert field, surrounded by dusty soil. In the background are small shrubs and vegetation, and the wide-open sky is brilliantly blue with puffy white clouds.

Under the new administration, some newly implemented federal regulations concerning oil and gas site emissions may end up being reversed.  The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has approved the final Methane and Waste Prevention Rule, which set stricter standards to reduce methane emissions and wasted gas on public and Indian tribal lands, and was set to take effect January 2017.  One of the first acts of the 114th Congress may be to reverse this legislation through the use of the Congressional Review Act, which allows congress to take back any executive action within the past 60 legislative work days if the action imposes exorbitant costs, exceeds agency authority, or is redundant.

Many states are choosing not to follow the lead of the federal government, but are instead continuing to strengthen their emissions laws.  Colorado and Ohio have existing legislation concerning methane emissions that are more strict than any proposed or implemented government rules.  This week, more states are following the examples set by Colorado and Ohio, and are introducing legislation to help curb emissions.  Lawmakers in California and Pennsylvania have introduced legislation requiring stricter emissions standards for gas and oil sites.

The proposed California regulations, Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards for Crude Oil and Natural Gas Facilities, would be the strictest in the country, more strict than the proposed BLM rule. The California legislature would apply to all oil and gas sites, on shore and off, on private, state, and federal lands, excluding only tribal lands.  The law also requires quarterly inspections and leak detection and repair.

Pennsylvania has started a 45-day public comment period for its new rules as well.  The state is the second largest producer of natural gas in the country, and the new rules are aimed at reducing methane pollution and other pollutants at well sites and compressor stations associated with natural gas drilling and transportation. The comment period runs through March 2017, and is for two general permits, and proposed revisions to an existing air-quality permit exemption. The revised permit would establish a requirement to use best-available technology regarding air emission limits, source testing, leak detection and repair, recordkeeping and reporting requirements.  Clearly, states are continuing to make reducing emissions a priority, no matter what the federal government’s priorities are.

Hannah Leis

Environmental Scientist



As feds roll back methane rule, California pushes ahead with its own (LAist 89.3 / KPCC-FM)

Pennsylvania seeks comment on tighter methane rules (Kallanish)

This isn’t hot air, Pa. needs to reduce its methane emissions: Joseph Minott (PennLive Patriot News)

Congress ready to roll back federal methane flaring rule as soon as Friday (The Denver Post)

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