Interior guts important environmental protections on methane

Feb 12, 2018

Methane flaring. 

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Today, the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management announced a new methane waste rule to replace its own regulations that went into effect only about one year ago. The new rule eliminates important environmental and public health protections established under the 2016 rule and will result in increased natural gas waste and reduced taxpayer revenue.

The following statement is from Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society:

 “The administration’s replacement methane rule is essentially a free pass for oil and gas companies to waste American energy. It ensures Americans will continue to bear the significant costs of wasted gas: polluted air, compromised health, accelerated climate change, and millions of dollars in missing revenue, among many others.

“This administration’s focus on eliminating common sense, popular protections for public health, land, water and air will guarantee a short-term windfall for the energy industry, and a long-term disaster for taxpayers.”


BLM’s original Methane Waste Prevention Rule was targeted as a high priority for elimination by industry groups soon after the 2016 presidential election. Several attempts have since been made by both the Trump administration and Congress to comply with related special interest lobbying efforts to gut the rule or get rid of it entirely. (See below timeline.)

The regulation, which was finalized in November 2016 and went into effect in January 2017, was created to cut the waste of natural gas owned by the American people through both accidental leaks and intentional venting and flaring--more than $330 million in natural gas is wasted each year. It was created to address the concerns of independent government oversight agencies that BLM was not meeting its legislative mandate to prevent the waste of taxpayer-owned resources.

The result of multiple years of work, 330,000 public comments, and eight public forums, it would have ensured taxpayers received millions of dollars each year in missing royalties and reduced harmful smog and pollution from methane—a greenhouse gas 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.



  • March 19 - May 15: BLM holds listening sessions across the country to hear concerns from the American people about how to go about addressing the problem of oil and gas waste on federal and tribal lands.


  • February 8: After more than a year and a half spent drafting a rule, the BLM published the draft rule for public comment.
  • November 18: The Obama administration finalizes BLM methane rule.
  • November 18: Industry groups and Western states file suit in Wyoming claiming that BLM doesn’t have the authority to create the rule in the first place.


  • January 16: Wyoming District Court denies industry trade groups and several states request for preliminary injunction, to prevent the rule from going into effect.
  • January 17: The original final rule goes into effect.
  • March 28: President Trump issues "energy independence" executive order targeting the methane rule and other regulations.
  • May 10: The effort to kill the methane rule via Congressional Review Act fails with bipartisan support, 51 to 49.
  • June 15: Secretary Zinke, following President Trump’s executive order, directed the Interior Department to unilaterally suspend many of the most important protections of the methane waste rule without providing any opportunity for public comment.
  • October 4: California court overturns APA delay.
  • October 5: BLM publishes draft rule to formally delay/suspend the 2016 final rule.
  • December 8: BLM publishes final rule to delay implementation of the 2016 final rule until 2019, while it rewrites or rescinds the rule.
  • December 19: California, New Mexico and 7 environmental and tribal groups, including The Wilderness Society, filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s suspension of the original rule.


  • January 5: American Petroleum Institute and other industry groups move to intervene in the Dec. 19th court case.  
  • February 12: BLM announces new rule which aims to revise or rescind the original Obama-era rule, kicking off a 60-day public comment period.
Alex Thompson