Zinke Is at It Again: More Oil & Gas Favors on Public Lands

In another attack on the Interior Department’s common sense measures to cut pollution from oil and gas operations on the nation’s public lands, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is trying again to stay the Bureau of Land Management’s Methane and Waste Prevention Rule.  

This latest handout to oil and gas polluters comes in the same week the Trump administration moved to turn over millions of acres of our National Monuments to industry for more drilling and mining.

When industry says “Jump,” Zinke says “How high?”

In addition to reducing waste of our natural resources and increasing royalties to local communities, BLM’s pollution rule will cut cancer-causing, smog-producing, and climate-changing air pollution from oil and gas drilling and processing on lands owned by all Americans. A number of the rule’s requirements kicked in last January, so the benefits are already being felt. Zinke’s stay applies to those measures as well as those coming due next month.

Zinke’s first attempt to yank these critical pollution safeguards was overturned in October by a federal court, in a suit brought by California, New Mexico, and NRDC and our public health and environmental colleagues.

And this is just what the Interior Department is up to on public lands. At the same time all of this is happening, elsewhere in the Trump administration the EPA is trying to rollback similar methane protections from oil and gas operations happening everywhere else. NRDC submitted our formal comments on a supplement to that proposed plan today.

Make no mistake—Zinke’s latest “stay” is illegal. The Secretary has no legal authority to suspend these existing, effective waste and pollution standards while he tries to develop a factual record that would support eventually repealing them, without a full record of the factual basis for the change and a showing that the suspension comports with his legal duties to minimize the waste of publicly-owned oil and gas resources and to curb dangerous pollution. His action is supported by neither fact nor law. 

In formal comments to BLM, NRDC and our partners identified the many legal shortcomings of the stay. But Zinke went ahead anyway. 

You can be sure NRDC will hold him to account. His latest rollback of vital public safeguards will not go unchallenged.  

About the Authors

Meleah Geertsma

Senior Attorney, Environmental Justice, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program

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