The U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) finalized a new rule on Tuesday aimed at reducing methane emissions tied to natural gas production on public lands.
The agency has finalized the Methane and Waste Prevention Rule that is designed to reduce the “wasteful release of natural gas into the atmosphere from oil and gas operations on public and Indian lands,” the DOI said.
The rule updates 30-year old regulations governing venting, flaring and leaks of natural gas on both public and tribal lands.
The DOI said the rule will help “curb waste of public resources, reduce harmful methane emissions and provide a fair return on public resources for federal taxpayers, tribes and states.”
According to the DOI, enough natural gas was lost between 2009 and 2015 to serve more than 6 million households for a year.
According to a 2010 Government Accountability Office report, the lost volumes of natural gas have caused states, tribes and federal taxpayers to lose millions of dollars in royalty revenues every year.
“America’s natural gas helps power our economy – it’s a resource, not a waste product, and it’s time we start treating it that way,” Bureau of Land Management director Neil Kornze said.
The new rule requires oil and gas producers to use currently available technologies and processes to cut flaring in half at oil wells on public and tribal lands.
Operators must also periodically inspect their operations for leaks and replace outdated equipment that vent large quantities of gas into the air.
Under the new rule, operators will also be required to limit venting from storage tanks and to use best practices to limit gas losses when removing liquids from wells.
The rule also clarifies when operators owe royalties on flared gas and restores the government’s congressionally authorized flexibility to set royalty rates at or above 12.5 percent of the value of production.
“We are proving that we can cut harmful methane emissions that contribute to climate change, while putting in place standards that make good economic sense for the nation,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said.