A U.S. District Court has ruled against Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s attempt to delay the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Waste Prevention Rule.
EDF and a coalition of conservation and tribal citizen groups had asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California for a preliminary injunction to prevent Zinke from delaying the rule.
Federal District Court Judge William Orrick granted the request last night, noting:
Plaintiffs have provided several reasons that the Suspension Rule is arbitrary and capricious, both for substantive reasons, as a result of the lack of a reasoned analysis, and procedural ones, due to the lack of meaningful notice and comment. They have demonstrated irreparable harm and that the balance of equities and public interest strongly favor issuing the preliminary injunction sought. Because I conclude that they have met their burden on each element, I GRANT Plaintiffs’ preliminary injunction enjoining enforcement of the Suspension Rule.” (Order, page 29)
“The court’s decision to block Secretary Zinke’s unlawful suspension ensures the Waste Prevention Rule remains in place, protecting tribes, ranchers and families across the West,” said EDF Lead Attorney Peter Zalzal. “The protections restored by this decision will help to prevent the waste of natural gas, reduce harmful methane, smog-forming and toxic pollution, and ensure communities and tribes have royalty money that can be used to construct roads and schools.”
The court rejected Zinke’s reasoning for the suspension, instead finding that, “it appears that BLM is simply casually ignoring all of its previous findings [in support of the Waste Prevention Rule] and arbitrarily changing course.” (Order, page 17, quotation omitted). The court also recognized the harm that Zinke’s suspension would cause to the public, including “the waste of publicly owned natural gas, increased air pollution and associated health impacts, and exacerbated climate impacts.” (Order, page 2)
BLM’s Waste Prevention Rule requires oil and gas companies operating on federal and tribal lands to take common-sense measures to reduce preventable leaks and flaring of methane, the primary component of natural gas.
The rule reduces emissions of methane, which is a potent driver of climate change, along with other unhealthy pollutants. Between 2009 and 2015, oil and gas companies wasted enough natural gas to supply more than 6.2 million homes for an entire year.
Then in December of 2017, Zinke issued a rule delaying implementation of the Waste Prevention Rule until January of 2019. EDF and its allies challenged Zinke’s delay. Declarations from a broad coalition of Western government officials, landowners, and tribal officials were filed in support of that request.
The states of California and New Mexico likewise challenged the delay and asked the court to stop Zinke’s unlawful action.
Last night the court granted that request and issued a preliminary injunction. The court also rejected requests to move the case to a court in Wyoming, which means the U.S. District Court in Northern California will now hear the case on the merits. The date for those arguments has not yet been set.
Separately, Zinke proposed last week to rescind many of the same protections that he previously sought to suspend. BLM will accept public comments on that proposal for 60 days.
EDF was joined in court by the Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Earthworks, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Wilderness Society, National Wildlife Federation, Citizens for a Healthy Community, Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights, Montana Environmental Information Center, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Western Organization of Resource Councils, Wilderness Workshop, Wildearth Guardians, and Wyoming Outdoor Council, as well as by the Attorneys General of California and New Mexico.
You can find more information – including all legal documents – on EDF’s website.
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