2018 OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE MONTANA PETROLEUM ASSOCIATION
Reeling in Regulatory Overreach
“Are you KIDDING me?? You
want to RESCIND the methane
rule? Who ARE you?,” wrote one
person anonymously to the Bureau
of Land Management (BLM) this
spring. Another commented, “ e
BLM should be restricting toxic
methane emissions, not encouraging
them. Honor our laws and the
regulations that spring from them.”
Predictably, these points of view
dominated the 223,585 public comments
submitted to BLM on plans to
revise the venting and aring rule.
e comments re ect the deepening
lack of understanding around public
lands management, regulations governing
our industry, and how development
is done in ways that protects
Despite the public’s confusion, the good news is we have an
administration that understands and is committed to following
the law rather than misinformation from opponents of oil and
natural gas. In fact, what we are witnessing in Washington, D.C.
is rare. The federal government is reviewing environmental laws
and, for once, is reeling in overreaching regulations that don’t
follow the law.
e rewrite of BLM’s venting and aring rule is front-and-center
in this undertaking, which is clear from the large number of public
comments. And what we see under the Trump Administration
is a BLM that nally recognizes what Western Energy Alliance has
been saying for years: air quality is not within the agency’s domain.
As we’ve argued exhaustively in court and public comment letters,
Congress delegated that authority to the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) and the states in the Clean Air Act.
We are pleased BLM is undergoing a formal rulemaking process
to revise the venting and aring rule. While the process is taking
several months, the Alliance and the Independent Petroleum Association
of America continue to press our lawsuit to prevent the rule
issued in 2016 from being implemented. e case remains in the
courts, but we expect BLM to nalize the revised rule by the end of
the summer before courts decide. e agency will nally put to rest
the original awed rule and properly focus on land management
and waste prevention.
Meanwhile, several other overreaching environmental regulations
are being reviewed or repealed at a scale our nation has
not seen in the modern era. Secretary Ryan Zinke is leading the
Department of the Interior with a focus on keeping regulations
confined to the authority granted by Congress and cooperating
with states on policies where their on-the-ground expertise is
greater, such as with the Greater Sage Grouse. So far Zinke has
withdrawn the hydraulic fracturing rule and ordered lease sales to
occur quarterly. His team is working to streamline environmental
review and drilling permit processing.
We’re seeing similar reforms at EPA, where Administrator Scott
Pruitt is keeping his promise to reinstate cooperative federalism with
the states. So far the agency has rewritten methane rules under Quad
Oa, repealed the Clean Power Plan, halted the Waters of the U.S.
(WOTUS) rule, ended sue-and-settle practices, removed con icts of
interest on Scienti c Advisory Committees, and eliminated the use of
secret science when creating regulations.
Another noteworthy example of this administration’s re-evaluation
of regulations involves disparate prosecution of oil and natural gas
under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). e Interior Department
reversed a policy rushed through in the nal days of the Obama
Administration and is in line with decisions from the Fi h, Eighth,
and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals.
e MBTA was enacted by Congress in 1918 as a criminal statute
to stop the hunting and poaching of migratory birds. e Obama Administration
routinely con ated it with the Endangered Species Act,
which prohibits activities that threaten only those species listed as
endangered or threatened. For example, the MBTA was used by the
U.S. Department of Justice in 2011 to target seven oil and natural gas
companies for the deaths of 28 birds, including half a dozen ducks,
that mistook open pits for freshwater ponds. Meanwhile, the Administration
was permitting wind energy projects that kill 46 to 64 bald
and golden eagles annually.
Of course, nobody in our industry wants to kill birds. But it does
happen on occasion unintentionally. Yet, consider the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service (FWS) estimates the average number of birds killed
each year by house cats is 1.9 billion and 677 million by buildings.
Even though FWS overestimates deaths from oil pits based on outdated
practices, it is 0.04% of the number of deaths caused by cats. e
data shows the absurdity of DOJ targeting industry and the justi cation
for this administration’s corrective action.
Vice President of