BLM finalizes flaring rules

Updates rules for federal, Tribal lands

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) finalized flaring rules that it said will curb the waste of natural gas during the production of oil and gas on federal and Tribal lands.

The rule updates previous regulations that were more than 40 years old and did not properly address the increasingly fast development in the oil and gas industry, according to the BLM.

The new version requires operators of oil and gas leases to take what the BLM calls reasonable steps to avoid natural gas waste, as well as develop leak detection, repair and waste minimization plans. When natural gas loss could have been avoidable, the rule ensures public and Tribal mineral owners are properly compensated through royalty payments.

BLM is phasing in the new requirements to allow operators time to appropriately adjust. For example, some flaring limits will go into effect roughly 60 days after the effective date of the rule. Some flare measurements will be required either six, 12 or 18 months after the effective date of the rule. Operators will have 18 months to submit leak detection and repair plans to BLM state offices.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has updated rules for flaring and leaks during oil and gas production on federal and Tribal lands. (Image: BLM)

The rule is expected to generate more than $50 million in additional natural gas royalty payments each year to the federal taxpayer and Tribal mineral owners, while conserving billions of cubic feet of gas that might otherwise have been vented, flared, or leaked from oil and gas operations. This conserved gas will be available to power American homes and industries.

The BLM rule is separate and distinct from the EPA rule and ensures that operators can comply with applicable state, Tribal or federal rules while meeting these commonsense requirements.

The rule modernizes the BLM’s existing regulations to require current technology and practices to better account for the waste of natural gas. It requires operators of federal and Indian oil and gas leases to take reasonable steps to avoid natural gas waste from the very beginning of operations, carry out leak detection and repair across ongoing operations, and cut down on wasteful gas venting and flaring. Consistent with the Inflation Reduction Act, the rule also sets new limits on “royalty-free” flaring, so that public and Tribal mineral owners are properly compensated through royalty payments for avoidable losses of natural gas.

The BLM received thousands of comments during a public comment period before finalizing the rule, including from landowners, environmental groups, oil and gas producers, industry experts, academia and other stakeholders. The comments helped inform changes to the proposed rule. More information about the final rule is available here.

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