Following through on plans it announced in October, the Trump administration announced that it has temporarily suspended or delayed parts of an Obama-era rule governing associated natural gas flaring and venting on public and tribal lands until January 2019.
On Thursday, the Department of Interior's (DOI) Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said certain requirements outlined in the Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation Rule, aka the venting and flaring rule, would be temporarily suspended on delayed until Jan. 17, 2019. A rule on the matter was scheduled to be published in Friday's Federal Register.
"As we strengthen America's energy independence, we need to make sure that regulations do not unnecessarily encumber energy production, constrain economic growth, or prevent job creation," said BLM spokesman Brian Steed. "By holding off on certain requirements, the BLM now has sufficient time to review the 2016 final rule while avoiding any compliance costs on industry that may not be needed after the review."
The BLM said for certain requirements currently in effect, the rule also temporarily suspends their effectiveness until Jan. 17, 2019.
The agency, which outlined its plans for the rule last October, said "immediately implementing some parts of the 2016 final rule could unnecessarily burden industry as the BLM considers which parts of that rule might change." Before the Nov. 6 deadline, BLM received more than 158,000 public comments on the proposed rule.
After conducting a regulatory impact analysis, the BLM estimated that the rule would impose compliance costs of $114-279 million a year on the oil and natural gas industry, excluding potential cost savings for product recovery.
The Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and the Western Energy Alliance (WEA) filed a lawsuit to prevent the rule in November 2016. Montana and Wyoming filed a separate lawsuit, and North Dakota and Texas subsequently joined as petitioners. The two lawsuits were combined. The trade associationsfiled a preliminary injunction seeking relief from the compliance dates last October.
"It makes no sense for companies to comply with a rule that is being significantly rewritten," said WEA President Kathleen Sgamma. "In suspending the rule, BLM has recognized that it does not have the statutory authority claimed by the Obama administration."
IPAA President Barry Russell concurred. "This action is a good step in providing our member companies some much-needed certainty as they plan their capital expenditure budgets for the upcoming year. It is never the desire of any company to waste a valuable product that could otherwise be brought to market and sold to the American consumers."
Last March, President Trump signed an executive order that called for, among other things, the DOI to review, rescind or revise the venting and flaring rule. The administration in June outlined its plans over the rule in federal court.
Although lawmakers in the GOP-controlled Senate narrowly failed to pass a bill to repeal the rule in May, their counterparts in the House successfully added an amendment to a $1.2 trillion package of appropriations bills in September. The amendment calls for blocking the BLM from enacting the venting and flaring rule.