Divided Court of Appeals Panel Declines to Block Stay of BLM Waste Prevention Rule

Tenth Circuit Will Now Consider the Appeal on the Merits

June 5, 2018
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org

(June 4, 2018) Today, a divided panel of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals declined to block a district court order staying portions of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) standards to reduce the waste of natural gas on public and tribal lands. The court will now hear the appeal on the merits.


The 2 to 1 decision by the Tenth Circuit means that certain aspects of the standards will remain paused while the court considers a lower court decision halting the standards.


“The Waste Prevention Rule saves natural gas, reduces toxic and smog-forming pollution, and delivers economic benefits to people across the West,” said Peter Zalzal, Lead Attorney for Environmental Defense Fund, which is a party to the case. “Today’s ruling is not a decision on the merits of these valuable safeguards, and we look forward to continuing our appeal to fight for these vital protections for families and communities across the West.”


Writing in dissent, Judge Matheson noted the legally flawed nature of the district court stay:


“Under this court’s precedent, the district court should have analyzed the traditional four factors in deciding whether to stay the Waste Prevention Rule (effective January 17, 2017) under Administrative Procedure Act § 705, 5 U.S.C. § 705.” (Order, page 7)


BLM’s Waste Prevention Standards require oil and gas companies operating on federal and tribal lands to take common sense measures to reduce preventable leaks of natural gas. Between 2009 and 2015, those companies wasted enough natural gas to supply more than 6.2 million homes for an entire year.


The waste of natural gas on public and tribal lands costs taxpayers millions of dollars. Preventing that waste means more royalty money for Western communities and tribes – money that can be used for roads and schools.


Natural gas that is wasted through leaks, venting or flaring also allows large amounts of unhealthy pollution into our air – including methane, which is a potent driver of climate change.


The Trump Administration has repeatedly tried to suspend the Waste Prevention Standards in both the courts and Congress. Most recently, in February, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California preliminarily enjoined an attempt by BLM to suspend the standards. Industry opponents have also launched a series of legal challenges to these needed protections.


Today, the Tenth Circuit declined a request to stay a lower court order that temporarily suspended portions of the standards, pending appeal of that order. Separately, the court rejected requests by industry groups and the states of Wyoming and Montana to dismiss the appeal, meaning the appeal of the lower court order will now move forward on the merits.


The states of California and New Mexico are supporting the standards, along with a group of 15 national, regional, tribal and local public health and environmental groups – including EDF.


The standards are being challenged by the Attorneys General of Wyoming and Montana, North Dakota and Texas, as well as oil and gas industry groups the Western Energy Alliance (WEA) and Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA).


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

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