Ron Ness: BLM Rule Enables Waste Rather Than Preventing It


This guest post was submitted by Ron Ness, President of the North Dakota Petroleum Council.

It’s now been nearly one year since the United States Senate had the opportunity to rescind an Obama-era regulation that aimed to prevent venting and flaring on public and tribal lands. In reality, this rule targeted North Dakota and the Bakken with a duplicative, burdensome and costly paperwork that provided zero net benefit beyond what the state had already implemented a year or two prior.

The industry warned that the rule would only result in adding hundreds of pages of additional requirements for the oil and gas industry, many of which are unnecessary and already being enforced by the state. We warned that because of this, the rule would not prevent waste, but instead, could help enable it.

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]Senator John Hoeven and Congressman Cramer recognized the negative impacts and burden this rule would be for North Dakota and supported the CRA, but it ultimately failed by one vote.[/mks_pullquote]

Today, those warnings are beginning to materialize. Since November 2016 when the ill-named Waste Prevention rule was finalized, flaring has increased by 4 percent statewide and 7 percent within the boundaries of the MHA Nation where the rule has should have the biggest impact. The increase is even higher at 9 percent on Trust Lands managed exclusively by the federal government. Clearly, these rules have been ineffective at preventing waste as intended.

That’s because these rules have heaped additional duties – duties already successfully being carried out by the State of North Dakota – on an already over-burdened staff at the BLM. Instead of focusing on the approval of rights-of-way and build-out of necessary infrastructure, which is the only effective and feasible way to capture natural gas, the BLM is left doing a job already being done by the state and has dedicated hours to trying to fix this poorly written and duplicative rule.

The United States Senate sought to fix this rule last May through a Congressional Review Act (CRA). This was similar to CRAs that helped rescind the Waters of the U.S. rule and regulations imposed on Clean Coal – both of which would have been disastrous to North Dakota’s agriculture and energy industries. Senator John Hoeven and Congressman Cramer recognized the negative impacts and burden this rule would be for North Dakota and supported the CRA, but it ultimately failed by one vote. Since then, the BLM, Department of Interior, and industry have been working diligently to try and fix the rule, costing them a tremendous amount of time and taxpayer dollars. As of now, there is no end in sight, and it is now up to a left-wing California judge to decide if the rule can be put on hold until revisions can be made or the rule will be forced upon agencies and industry alike.

The oil and gas industry is fully supportive of capturing more natural gas and has spent billions in infrastructure to do so, but more needs to be built. The 2016 rule is not preventing waste—it is enabling it. Without infrastructure, gas cannot be captured, but BLM employees are too busy trying to fix bad policy rather than permitting needed infrastructure. For this reason, we commend Interior Secretary Zinke’s efforts to rescind and rewrite this rule and allow both the industry and state of North Dakota to continue its progress of building infrastructure to capture more natural gas.