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Environmental group says the BLM's methane flaring limit could go further

Oil Field Flare.
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Between 2010 and 2020, enough methane was vented on public lands to serve about 675,000 homes, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

The Biden administration has proposed a rule to limit methane flaring from oil and gas development on public lands.

The rule would impose royalty payments for excessive flaring, and the Bureau of Land Management estimates it would generate nearly $40 million a year.

Melissa Hornbein, a senior attorney based in Montana with the Western Environmental Law Center, said she's encouraged by some aspects of the proposal, but believes an outright ban would be more effective, as long as there are no safety concerns in a given situation.

"There's really no need for it," she said, "and instituting a pay-to-play system is not likely to be effective in terms of really reducing the waste of associated gas through venting and flaring."

Hornbein said it's important that the BLM has recognized its authority to regulate such oil and gas waste as methane, and her organization would like to see the agency go further to create a consistent and durable rule that will last into the next administration.

A spokesperson for the Independent Petroleum Association of America said the regulations should be handled by the Environmental Protection Agency, because the BLM doesn't have enough expertise on this issue.