Court Halts Trump Climate Rollback on Public Lands—Again

Our federal courts have blocked the Trump administration’s second attempt to hit the ‘stop’ button on critical protections against harmful air pollution and waste of natural resources from oil and gas operations on public lands nationwide.

The decision once again sends a message to this administration that it will not get away with illegal handouts to industry, at the expense of Americans’ health and the environment.

A federal judge this week issued a preliminary injunction of Interior Secretary Zinke's second attempt to stay the Bureau of Land Management's Methane and Waste Prevention Rule for oil and gas operations on public lands. The rule contains critical measures to decrease waste of our natural resources on lands owned by all Americans and increase royalties to local communities. And it was already cutting cancer-causing, smog-producing and climate-changing air pollution from oil and gas drilling and processing when Zinke hit the pause button—again—in early December.

NRDC and our partners, including the States of California and New Mexico, moved quickly to challenge the second stay and seek a preliminary injunction after Zinke finalized the action in late 2017. The case follows our prior win against Zinke’s first attempt to stay the rule earlier this year, which a federal court rejected in October.

In issuing the preliminary injunction here, Judge Orrick of the Northern District of California took issue with the Secretary’s claim that his action was only a halt for which a full legal and factual justification is not required. He critiqued the “baseless” action, highlighting the complete lack of factual justification in the record for Zinke’s change of course. And he recognized the significant harms to public health and the environment that staying the rule would produce—harms like impaired lung function and increased risk of neurological damage that once incurred cannot be reversed.

With the court’s decision, the rule and its protections go back in full effect while the court proceeds to the merits of our challenge. NRDC and our partners will continue to fight in this case, and against Zinke’s recently announced plans to further gut the rule, to ensure those irreparable harms never come to be. 

About the Authors

Meleah Geertsma

Senior Attorney, Water Initiatives, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program

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