COMMENTARY: Senate has a chance to roll back an unreasonable Obama regulation on methane

In the waning days of his administration, President Obama ordered one final offensive in his preposterous war on fossil fuels. His Bureau of Land Management snuck the Methane and Waste Prevention rule into effect with no regard for the fact that it will harm taxpayers, hamper the economy, kill jobs and threaten the environment.

Now Nevada’s U.S. senators, Dean Heller and Catherine Cortez Masto, have an opportunity to help kill the regulation before the real damage begins.

Under the Congressional Review Act, federal lawmakers are allowed to overturn bureaucratic rules for a short time after a regulation is put into place. The House has already voted to overrule the methane scheme and now it’s up to the Senate to adopt a companion bill that makes the repeal official.

The regulation excessively restricts “venting” and “flaring” — techniques used by natural gas companies to burn off excess methane — on federal lands. As a result, it will be nearly impossible to produce natural gas on government property.

These federal lands aren’t Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park or some other precious natural wonder. Gas production generally occurs on leftover land that isn’t used for recreation, weapons testing or housing captured space aliens.

A regulation that needlessly kills energy investment on federal lands is a huge deal in the West. It’s particularly bad news for Nevadans, because the Washington controls 85 percent of the state.

This new regulation is expected to result in a mass exodus of energy firms from federal lands, killing jobs and destroying $1.3 billion in economic activity. Western states stand to lose the most. More than $997 million worth of output, wages and royalties is expected to go out the window thanks to the rule.

In addition to the economic harm, the methane diktat also hoses taxpayers. The feds charge energy companies massive royalties to access public lands. Existing red tape limiting gas and oil production on federal property cost Uncle Sam $4.2 billion between 2010 and 2015. The federal government will lose out on billions more if the venting and flaring regulation stays in place.

By reducing gas production, the regulation also means higher electricity and natural gas bills for Americans. And it threatens our nation’s energy independence.

Worst of all, the rule won’t even help the environment.

The natural gas industry has invested millions in new innovations to reduce methane emissions — and those investments are paying major dividends. Since 1990, domestic gas production has skyrocketed 47 percent, but methane emissions have fallen 15 percent. Some of this reduction in methane emissions is due to existing EPA and state rules that make the BLM’s regulation redundant and unnecessary.

Most of the reduction, however, is because methane is a valuable component to fuel and chemical manufacturing. Gas companies don’t want methane to go to waste, so they’ve created technologies to capture and use it.

Because energy companies have so effectively reduced methane emissions, cow and pig flatulence is responsible for more methane emissions than fossil fuel production in the United States. Oddly, however, President Obama never targeted livestock toots in his effort to improve air quality.

Carbon emissions are at their lowest levels in 25 years because America’s power plants are increasingly being powered by natural gas rather than coal. By limiting natural gas production and increasing its price, many power plants will again turn to coal, which is much more harmful to the environment.

The Obama administration’s methane scheme fails on all fronts. It hurts taxpayers, kills jobs, injures the economy and does nothing to help the environment.

Nevada’s U.S. senators must take advantage of their golden opportunity to stand up for workers, economic development and the environment by killing this BLM regulation.

Drew Johnson is a senior scholar at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

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