The Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) announced today that it has temporarily postponed certain requirements contained in its 2016 final Waste Prevention Rule (also known as the Venting and Flaring Rule) for 1 year, until 2019.
The full text of the proposed rule language governing “Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation; Delay and Suspension of Certain Requirements” can be found here. The new rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register tomorrow, December 8, 2017.
By way of a reminder, the prior 2016 rule, known as the Waste Prevention Rule, or the Venting and Flaring Rule (81 FR 83008) (the “2016 Venting and Flaring Rule”), contained provisions that went into effect almost a year ago in January of 2017, and the rest was scheduled to go into effect just around the corner in January 2018. According to the BLM website, “[t]he [2016 Venting and Flaring] rule is intended to limit the loss through venting, flaring or leaks of natural gas from oil and gas production on public and Indian lands.”
Folks were tuned in to this new rule – over 150,000 comments on the new rule were reportedly received during the notice and comment period.
Basically, the new rule suspends and/or delays until January 2019 certain provisions of the 2016 Venting and Flaring Rule…
According to regulations.gov’s summary of the new rule, it will:
- suspend until July 17, 2019, provisions pertaining to: waste minimization plans; flaring and venting of gas during drilling and production operations, and during well completions and related operations; determining the emissions levels of storage vessels; and minimizing gas vented during downhole well maintenance and liquids unloading
- delay until July 17, 2019 (or by 18 months) provisions pertaining to: gas capture; measuring and reporting gas volumes vented and flared; existing approvals to flare royalty free; replacing pneumatic controllers; and leak detection and repair.
These time extensions are expected give the oil and gas industry more time to get into compliance and figure out the budgeting to accomplish this. Folks in the know (the BLM in its Regulatory Impact Analysis) estimated that the requirements of the 2016 Venting and Flaring Rule “would impose compliance costs, not including potential cost savings for product recovery, of approximately $114 million to $279 million per year.” According to the Law 360 article entitled, BLM Finalizes Delay to Methane Venting Rule Compliance, “[t]he BLM said in a statement that temporarily putting off certain requirements would help operators avoid compliance costs for requirements that could be taken away or significantly changed.”
According to the BLM, the extra time until January 2019 also “gives the BLM sufficient time to review the 2016 final rule and consider revising or rescinding its requirements.”
Only time will tell the fate of the venting and flaring rule…stay tuned!