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API Seeking Two-Year Delay of BLM Flaring, Venting Rule Compliance Dates

One week after the Senate surprised the Trump administration by failing to pass a bill to repeal a rule governing flaring and venting of associated natural gas production on public and tribal lands, the American Petroleum Institute (API) asked the Department of Interior (DOI) to delay the rule's compliance dates by two years.

In a letter last Tuesday,API CEO Jack Gerard urged DOI Secretary Ryan Zinke to instruct the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to issue a proposed rule postponing the deadlines set forth in the BLM's Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation Rule, also known as the venting and flaring rule.

"We make this request in view of directives in recent presidential and secretarial orders that may lead to changes to or withdrawal of the final rule," Gerard said, in reference to an executive order (EO) signed by President Trump on March 28, and a secretarial order issued by Zinke the following day. The EO called for, among other things, the DOI to review, rescind or revise the venting and flaring rule.

"With requirements of the final rule already applicable and deadlines approaching to initiate a multitude of acts to meet future compliance dates in the final rule, swift action from [DOI] is needed to provide certainty for operators of federal oil and gas leases subject to its terms," Gerard said. "Accordingly, we request that you direct the BLM to expeditiously publish a notice in the Federal Registerto postpone the compliance dates in the final rule in light of the fact that any final determinations from the review and rulemaking processes will likely take several months.

"In order to accommodate any necessary procedural requirements necessary to implement these postponements, we respectfully request that this action proceed as soon as possible."

Experts say any proposed rulemaking on the venting and flaring rulesis likely to take years.

Under the final rule, to be implemented in stages, oil and gas producers would be required to use currently available technologies and processes to cut gas flaring in half at oil wells on public and tribal lands. Operators would also be required to periodically inspect their facilities for leaks and replace outdated equipment that vents large quantities of gas into the air. Other parts of the rule require operators to limit venting from storage tanks and to use best practices to limit gas losses when removing liquids from wells.

Two industry groups -- the Independent Petroleum Association of America and Western Energy Alliance --filed a lawsuit against the rule last November. Montana and Wyoming filed a separate lawsuit three days later, and North Dakota and Texas subsequently joined as petitioners. The two lawsuits were combined at the end of November.

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