The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Wyoming may begin measuring annual methane emissions not just from Wyoming's natural gas and oil producers in the Jonah and Pinedale Anticline fields, but from cattle on public lands as well, after the Upper Green River Valley is designated as an air quality nonattainment area.

The nonattainment designation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is scheduled to go into effect next month.

In the end, it may be like the college philosophy arguments about how many angels fit on the head of a pin, given that the Pinedale BLM office currently leases about 912,000 acres for cattle grazing, and EPA estimates that an average cow emits 80-110 kilograms of methane annually. Those ozone-producing emissions contribute to the area's nonattainment designation.

In reality, the amount of ozone attributable to cattle would be only a very small portion of emissions from drilling, said state and federal officials.

Meanwhile, the producers are continuing to take mitigation steps, such as electric motor-driven (rather than natural gas-powered) compression and trucks, for hauling condensate and liquids, according to Petroleum Association of Wyoming President Bruce Hinchey.

"There are lots of mitigation measures we're looking at," Hinchey said. Regarding the grazing mitigation, it has subsequently been decided that measuring cattle methane most likely is not going to be part of the mitigation processes. "It would have been fun to watch them try to do it."

Separately, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is looking at what has to be done to reduce ozone, and staff is considering what regulators would need to do related to BLM grazing lands. According to reports, DEQ officials are still discussing the issue with BLM. They indicated that the state and federal agencies need to review all of the land-use activities overseen by BLM, including the issuing of cattle grazing and drilling permits, to make sure those activities "conform" to the state's nonattaiment area implementation plan.

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