17 Environmental and Tribal groups, including The Wilderness Society, sue the Trump administration over methane rule suspension

Dec 19, 2017

Gas is often intentionally flared by oil and gas companies during the extraction process.

Ken Doerr, flickr
Today, 17 environmental and tribal groups, including The Wilderness Society, filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s suspension of the Bureau of Land Management’s Waste Prevention Rule.

The rule requires oil and gas operations on public lands to capture natural gas that is leaked, vented or flared.

The Wilderness Society is providing the following on-the-record comment on the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, from attorney Bruce Pendery:

“The BLM’s abandonment of its waste rule is an affront to all Americans. In less than one year, the industry and its allies have unsuccessfully tried three times to eliminate the rule, and we believe they will lose this newest court battle.

“No matter how many special interests the Trump administration has on its side in its mindless pursuit of energy dominance, it cannot avoid the Interior Department’s legal obligations to protect taxpayers and the planet.”

The administration’s attempt to delay the rule with a new, “suspension rule,” which was finalized Dec. 9., is the latest in a series of efforts—all unsuccessful so far—by the oil and gas industry and the Trump administration to block the rule, which went into effect in January 2017:

  • In January, industry trade groups and several states tried, and failed, to get a court order to prevent the rule from going into effect.
  • May 2017, the U.S. Senate voted not to consider repeal of the rule, 51 to 49.
  • The Trump administration then unilaterally suspended parts of the rule, but that action was struck down by a California court in October. 
  • Despite this ruling, on Dec. 8, the BLM once again attempted to stay compliance for one year while it rewrites the rule—or writes a new rule that serves only to rescind the old rule completely.

BLM’s methane rule was designed to update waste regulations that were more than 30 years old and did not reflect the dramatic advances in oil and gas drilling technology or the rapid expansion of drilling operations on public lands in recent years. It would garner millions of dollars in royalties every year for taxpayers, as well as reduce harmful smog and methane pollution—a greenhouse gas 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.