Obama Administration Updates 30-Year-Old Rules to Curb Methane Leaks from Oil, Gas Production

The U.S. Interior Department finalized rules on Tuesday that aim to prevent methane leaks from oil and gas production on federal and tribal lands.

The updated rules are reforming 30-year-old regulations that control flaring, venting, and natural gas leaks from oil and gas production. Under the updates, up to 41 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year could be retained instead of wasted.

Obama’s administration seeks to cut harmful methane emissions while also placing economically sound standards for the nation, and the new rule is an aim toward that goal. The incoming Trump administration, however, promises to do away with strict regulations on energy production.

According to the Bureau of Land Management, the rule would phase in a limit on flaring over several years affecting 16 percent of oil wells, which make up 87 percent of gas flared.

To comply, oil and gas operators can expand their gas-capture technology or connect wells to existing infrastructure through gathering lines. Operators would also have to use technology that detects methane leaks invisible to the naked eye.

Environmentalists have praised the rule saying that oil companies have wasted natural gas that belongs to all Americans. But Western Energy Alliance and Independent Petroleum Association of America filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management.