Court Rejects Trump Administration Effort to Roll Back Methane Rule
WASHINGTON - In a major victory in the fight to curb the oil and gas industry’s methane emissions, a federal court in California has rejected the Trump administration’s attempt to rescind the 2016 Methane Waste Prevention Rule, calling the agency action “backwards,” “fickle,” “defectively promulgated,” and “wholly inadequate.” The Waste Prevention Rule was put in place to stop the unnecessary leaking of air pollution from oil and gas facilities on public lands by requiring commonsense measures to limit venting, flaring, and leaking of methane.
The following is a statement by Lissa Lynch, attorney for the Climate and Clean Energy program at NRDC (the Natural Resources Defense Council):
“The chickens are coming home to roost for the Bureau of Land Management. The Waste Prevention Rule is a commonsense protection that holds the oil and gas industry accountable for uncontrolled leaking of methane—pollution that harms public health and fuels climate change. This blistering opinion is yet another in a string of court rulings telling the Trump administration that no matter how badly it wants to, it can’t ignore procedural requirements and simply throw out safeguards without relying on science and giving the public a meaningful opportunity to weigh in.”
NRDC and a coalition of nearly 20 conservation and tribal citizen groups, alongside the States of California and New Mexico, sued the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 2018 over its rollback of the rule.
The court granted motions by the environmental coalition and States for summary judgment, vacated the BLM’s rescission of the rule, and reinstated the rule, to take effect after 90 days. Judge Yvonne Gonzales Rodgers issued a withering 57-page opinion, finding that the BLM’s interpretation of “waste” under the Mineral Leasing Act was unreasonable, its evaluation of the economic impact of the 2018 rule rescission was “arbitrary and capricious,” the agency’s use of an interim social cost of methane was flawed, and the BLM failed to comply with multiple requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The oil and gas sector is the largest U.S. industrial emitter of methane, which is the second-biggest driver of climate change after carbon dioxide. Leaking oil and gas facilities also release smog-forming and cancer-causing chemicals that trigger asthma attacks and increase cancer risks for people living nearby.
More background on the case is available here, and a 2017 factsheet on the methane rule is available here.
A copy of the opinion is available here.
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NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.