BLM flaring and venting rule repeal flares reactions

Democrat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, with a key vote, voted on Wednesday against a resolution disapproving the Bureau of Land Management’s methane flaring and venting rule. Her action has flared up mixed reactions of approval and disapproval.

Republican Sen. John Hoeven voted in favor of the repeal.

The Senate voted 51-49 to reject the resolution of disapproval for the BLM’s “Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation” rule, commonly known as the flaring and venting rule.

The BLM rule was one of President Obama’s final acts before he left office. The rule, finalized by Obama in his last weeks in office, updated 30-year-old regulations governing flaring, venting and natural gas leaks from oil and gas production, according to proponents of the rule. Others say it imposes duplicative requirements on energy development on federal and Indian lands on top of the air quality standards of the states and Environmental Protection Agency.

“My concern with overturning this rule comes down to waste – waste of a resource that would power homes and businesses across the country, and waste of royalties that either the taxpayers or tribal communities aren’t getting when methane is flared or vented,” said Heitkamp. “Over the past several months, I’ve heard from North Dakotans on both sides of this issue and have seriously weighed all of their concerns. North Dakota has taken successful, proactive steps to decrease flaring and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while supporting a successful energy industry and good jobs. This rule would not get in the way of the work the state has already done, and many provisions in this rule were modeled after the regulations in our state and will only encourage further action while making sure other states follow North Dakota’s lead. Additionally, multiple tribes in North Dakota have expressed serious concerns with overturning this rule – including MHA (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara) Nation whose reservation covers an area where one-fifth of production in the state occurs.

She said the rule is not perfect and she is encouraging the administration to work with industry, landowners and tribes to make the changes necessary so the rule is more effective and efficient rather than overturn it.

Hoeven, who cosponsored the Senate companion to the resolution voted on Wednesday, said the BLM methane rule will continue to burden energy production and economic growth. “BLM’s methane rule imposes unnecessary and unworkable mandates on top of North Dakota’s successful approach to reducing flaring, and it is unfortunate that we were not able to repeal this duplicative and costly regulation,” Hoeven said. “We have shown time and again that a states-led approach to regulation can build a strong economy while also ensuring good environmental stewardship. Under our state’s venting and flaring requirements, we have successfully reduced flaring from over 35 percent to around 10 percent.”

Congressman Kevin Cramer said he was disappointed in senators voting against energy jobs in North Dakota. “Let’s be clear, a vote against this rule is a vote against the workers and families in western North Dakota,” said Cramer on Wednesday. “To say I’m extremely disappointed in the Senate’s voting down of this CRA (Congressional Review Act) today – which would have revoked Obama’s job-killing BLM Methane Rule – is an understatement. 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 rule should be ashamed of themselves. I thank Senator Hoeven for his unwavering support for the BLM Methane CRA, and I hope we see stronger support from our senators for America’s energy industry in the future.”

Gov. Doug Burgun said the duplicative rule intrudes on the state’s authority to regulate oil and gas waste on state and privately owned lands, creating confusion over jurisdictional boundaries while not fully acknowledging the tremendous progress North Dakota and the industry have made to reduce flaring. “Allowing the BLM rule to remain in place will have detrimental impacts on a significant portion of oil and gas operations on public lands and on North Dakota’s economy as a whole. We thank Sen. Hoeven for his vote in support of the resolution and hope for future action to repeal the rule,” Burgum said.

Lisa DeVille, of Mandaree, president of Fort Berthold POWER, an affiliate of the Dakota Resource Council, lauded Heitkamp’s action while criticizing Hoeven for his action in voting on the repeal.

“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 ability 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.” said DeVille.

Last month the Three Affiliated Tribes business council and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe announced their support for the rule.

On the other hand, Americans for Prosperity-Minnesota, an organization in St. Paul, Minn., said Heitkamp’s vote undermines progress for relief from methane rules. “Our own attorney general sued to stop the EPA’s methane emission regulation, but Heitkamp chose this Obama-era rule over North Dakota’s interests. She now owns the $1 billion it will cost to comply with this regulation,” said Jason Flohrs, state director.

Officials with Bakken Backers, a Bismarck-based coaltion of businesses, leaders, workers and citizens, said Heitkamp’s vote against the resolution will cause North Dakota to suffer, citing rig counts and production will be hurt, North Dakotans will have fewer jobs in the energy industry and state government will have less tax revenue for infrastructure, education and healthcare spending.

Officials with the Western Energy Alliance said the rule is a vast overreach of executive branch authority, as BLM usurped EPA and state authority granted by Congress in the Clean Air Act.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed the Senate didn’t even have the wherewithal to debate overturning the rule on the floor,” said Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Alliance. “The Senate has voted to deny taxpayers $110 million in revenue every year. Western Energy Alliance, IPAA (Independent Petroleum Association of America) and four states will continue to make the case in court that the rule is a vast overreach of BLM authority. The district court judge expressed grave doubts about BLM’s authority to regulate air quality, and we and the states will continue to press that point. She said they’ll also be working closely with the Department of the Interior on reviewing and rescinding the rule.

The Trump administration has already indicated it will repeal the rule, according to Cramer. However, he said the Congressional Review Act that failed Wednesday would have made it impossible for a future president to rekindle the harmful rule. On Feb. 3, the House passed its resolution of disapproval for the rule which was cosponsored by Cramer. In March, Cramer called on the Senate to bring the BLM methane Congressional Review Act resolution up for a vote before the deadline for disapproving the BLM rule is reached.

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