New Rule Targets Methane Waste On Federal Lands

WASHINGTON — In an effort to curb methane waste, the Bureau of Land Management released a new rule that charges industry operators for unnecessarily wasting publicly owned methane on federal and tribal lands. Right now, more than 150 billion cubic feet of gas produced on public and Tribal lands is lost via leaks, venting, or flaring.  

The rule clarifies long-standing legal authority, responds to 30 years of watchdog complaints, and implements new authority in the Inflation Reduction Act, which requires that nearly all gas produced from new leases be charged a royalty, even if the gas was released by venting, flaring, or negligence. 

Following is a statement from Josh Axelrod, senior advocate at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council): 

“For far too long, gas and oil producers on public and Tribal lands have been wasting the gas they produce by carelessly venting or flaring it or not checking for leaks. By charging for any wasted gas, today’s rule should help put an end to this harmful, costly practice. This step is both straightforward and long overdue. Methane waste may be one of industry’s most senseless practices, as it is simply releasing the very product it wants to sell. But that’s what makes these standards so cost effective.  

“This rule will create real benefits for the climate while also curtailing practices that are harming communities living near these wells and recover millions of dollars in lost royalties for American taxpayers and Tribal governments.”  


The Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) new policy significantly curtails methane waste from oil and gas operations on federal lands, focusing on the human and environmental impacts of venting, flaring, and leaking methane. By mandating detailed waste minimization plans for companies seeking drilling permits, the rule targets the reduction of venting and flaring methane, a potent greenhouse gas. This initiative is poised to improve air quality and health outcomes, particularly for communities near oil and gas sites, including vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, people living in poverty, and people of color, notably Native Americans. 

The policy introduces leak detection and repair programs to ensure the prompt repair of leaks, preventing undue waste. This measure not only addresses the environmental and health hazards posed by methane but also aligns with efforts to advance environmental justice and public health, demonstrating a critical step towards mitigating the adverse effects of oil and gas extraction on both the planet and its inhabitants. Roughly 12,000 people live within a half mile of a well with flaring on federal and Tribal lands and face significant health risks.  

This regulation from the Bureau of Land Management follows a related measure that the Environmental Protection Agency issued late last year to curtail methane leaks and routine flaring from oil and gas operations located on both public and private lands.  

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Established in 1970, NRDC uses science, policy, law, and people power to confront the climate crisis, protect public health, and safeguard nature. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, Beijing and Delhi (an office of NRDC India Pvt. Ltd). Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC

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