A new rule to reduce gas flaring and venting on federal lands in the US has come into effect after a federal judge in Wyoming rejected an industry challenge to postpone it.
The ruling aims to significantly reduce industry carbon emissions from gas flaring and venting – including leaks – by oil and gas companies that operate on US federal land. Now when a company is granted a lease it must share the steps it is taking to control emissions. Outgoing President Barack Obama introduced the rule just two months before the end of his time in office.
Whilst gas is often flared and vented for safety reasons, the majority is released as the main method of disposal for facilities that do not have the infrastructure to capture and transport it. New data released in December 2016 by the World Bank’s Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership (GGFR) shows that gas flaring has continued to increase in the US over the last five years. The Bureau of Land Management – the agency responsible for managing more than 240 million acres of US federal land– has released data showing companies operating on federal land released enough gas between 2009 and 2014 to power more than five million homes. The increase has been linked to the boom in shale gas production – a key driver for the new rule on federal land management.
In addition to reducing emissions from the Oil & Gas Industry, the new rule will recover significant taxation royalties for both federal and state bodies. The government has estimated that 40% of gas flared or vented on public lands could be captured, sold and taxed.
The new rule modernises 30-year-old regulations. However, the new President has already shown a willingness to repeal the legislation of his predecessor. While a repeal would take months to complete, President Donald Trump has repeatedly stated an intention to increase drilling on federal lands during his time in office and laxer regulations would make this more attractive for companies seeking to reduce outgoing costs.