BLM proposes suspending standards to prevent waste of public resources

Proposal will delay measures to reduce the $330 million in taxpayer-owned natural gas wasted each year

October 4, 2017
Stacy MacDiarmid, (512) 691-3439,

(Washington, DC – October 4, 2017) After similar efforts were rejected by both the courts and Congress, the Trump administration is trying once again to suspend rules to protect taxpayers and Native American tribes from the needless waste of their natural gas resources.

Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke today issued a proposal to stall until January of 2019 a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rule that requires oil and gas companies operating on federal and tribal lands to take commonsense measures to reduce preventable leaks and venting of methane, the primary component of natural gas.

“This is little more than a giveaway to the worst-operated companies in the oil and gas industry,” said EDF Associate Vice President of Climate and Energy Matt Watson. “It comes at the direct expense of taxpayers and tribal communities, who own these resources, and to the distinct disadvantage of energy companies that are trying to operate responsibly.”

With this delay, Secretary Zinke is allowing an additional $330 million of taxpayer-owned natural gas to be wasted. That’s enough natural gas to meet the heating and cooking needs of 1.5 million American homes– or every home in Chicago – for a year.  The delay will also result in additional methane, volatile organic compound, and hazardous air pollutant emissions, all of which are dangerous pollutants.

Inaction is already hurting the American taxpayer. Since development of this rule began in 2013, almost $1.8 billion worth of American taxpayer-owned natural gas has been wasted largely due to avoidable leaks, flaring and intentional releases of methane. The BLM waste reduction standards, adopted in January, were modeled after policies pioneered in Western states like Colorado and Wyoming with the support of local elected officials, leading oil and gas companies and environmental groups.

More than 80 percent of Western voters, who live and work near public lands, support this rule, and more than two-thirds of voters across the country want to keep the rule in place.

Despite that support, opponents of the standards asked a federal district court in Wyoming for a preliminary injunction, which would have put the standards on hold indefinitely. In January, the court denied that request.

In May, opponents attempted to repeal the standards using the Congressional Review Act, but after an outpouring of support for the rule from across the country, the effort was rejected by a bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate.

In June, Secretary Zinke attempted to unilaterally suspend many of these same protections, without providing any opportunity for public comment and without considering the additional wasted gas or harmful air pollution that would result from his actions. A legal challenge of that attempted stay (led by the Attorney’s General of California and New Mexico and a broad coalition of environmental and conservation groups) is pending in U.S. District Court.

You can find more information – including all legal documents– on EDF’s website.

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