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Conservationists: Bureau of Land Management rules on drilling emissions are a good first step

The Bureau of Land Management has proposed a rule change that would address natural gas emissions on public lands, but conservationists say the proposal may not be enough to offset climate change.

The rules governing gas leaks at drilling sites are about 40 years old.

Conservationists say that industry has written them off as a cost of doing business, and the practice has increased in the last decade.

The Obama administration tried to tighten regulations; the Trump administration tried to loosen them. Both attempts lost legal challenges, which has left the BLM looking for clarity.

Melissa Hornbein of the Western Environmental Law Center says the proposal is a step in the right direction.

“We would really like to see a rule that more firmly cracks down on routine venting and flaring, and also leaves less discretion for BLM to decide, ‘well I don’t think we’re going to regulate in this situation,” Hornbein said.

In recent years, the industry has annually released enough fuel to serve about 675,000 homes.

Ron Dungan was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2020 to 2024.