Biden finalizes rule to prevent methane emissions and wasted gas from public lands drilling

The Biden administration on Wednesday finalized new rules on drilling for oil and gas on public lands — saying that it will cut down on both wasted fuel and planet-warming emissions from the production of these fossil fuels.

The rules would require oil and gas drillers to either certify that they will capture all of the oil and gas produced by their wells or come up with a plan to reduce wasted gas.

The Interior Department said this rule would be expected to result in $51 million per year in more government revenues and $17.9 million in climate-related benefits to society.

A proposed version of the rule was expected to have climate benefits equivalent to taking nearly 1.6 million gas-powered cars off the road. It’s not immediately clear whether that figure had changed in the final rule, and spokespeople for the department did not immediately share regulatory impact documents with The Hill.

“By leveraging modern technology and best practices to reduce natural gas waste, we are taking long-overdue steps that will increase accountability for oil and gas operators and benefit energy communities now and for generations to come,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a written statement.

The rule is expected to save the industry $1.8 million worth of gas from being lost each year, but cost the industry $19.3 million per year in compliance costs.

Oil and gas can be co-occurring, and sometimes oil companies will release or burn off some of the gas — which tends to be less valuable than oil — that they produce.

The main component of gas is methane, which is more than 28 times as potent as carbon dioxide when it comes to heating up the planet.

Wednesday’s rule is technically the first update to waste regulations for public lands drilling in decades — though the Obama administration had attempted its own reforms.

Both the Obama-era rule, which was never fully implemented, and the Trump administration’s attempt to rescind it, ran into legal hurdles. One issue raised with the Obama rule was that it relied too heavily on pollution benefits, as opposed to waste reduction.

Additional provisions in the rule, which also applies to drilling on tribal lands, require oil and gas operators to have programs in place to detect and repair methane leaks.

Environmental advocates cheered the rule.

“Taking action to limit methane waste on public lands offers a win-win-win for taxpayers, producers and communities harmed by this waste and associated pollution,” Jon Goldstein, senior director of regulatory and legislative affairs at the Environmental Defense Fund, said in a written statement.

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