Nearly 100 people gathered at Durango’s Buckley Park on Monday to show support for a new rule aimed at reducing the wasteful leaking of methane at oil and gas sites, which faces revocation under the Trump administration.
“Without this rule our county could face terrible health impacts,” said Kellie Pettyjohn, a farmer in Mancos. “We don’t want this one-year delay. We want this rule in place.”
In 2014, the Bureau of Land Management began a process to update its nearly 30-year-old regulations on preventing methane leaks at oil and gas sites located on BLM land, on which more than 100,000 wells release up to 180,000 tons a year.
Late last year, the rules were passed with bipartisan support in Congress, and general consensus from the public. The regulations, which could save $300 million in lost methane emissions a year, were supposed to take effect Jan. 2018.
However, since President Donald Trump took office early last year, the methane rules have come under attack from those who say the regulations put unnecessary strain on oil and gas operators.
Attempts in Congress to repeal the rules failed in May. And federal judges on three occasions have denied the Trump administration’s attempt to curb the methane rules.
Recently, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke proposed a one-year delay of the rules, though it’s unclear if he intends to rewrite the regulations or scrap them. A public comment period on the matter ended Monday.
Don Schreiber, a New Mexico rancher and vocal advocate of the methane rules, said Monday there’s more than 120 wells surrounding his property in the San Juan Basin, which accounts for 10 percent of all industry methane emissions.
He told the crowd Zinke should uphold the methane regulations and “put people before pollution.”
Shelly Silbert, executive director of Great Old Broads for Wilderness, said although Colorado has strong methane rules, a federal standard needs to be put in place to better protect the environment.
“Zinke wants us to trust the oil and gas industry will take care of leaks,” she said. “That’s not happening folks.”
The oil and gas industry, for its part, has maintained operators have taken it upon themselves to reduce methane waste, and that the most recent proposed rules from the BLM are another example of federal overreach.