EDF, Allies Ask Court to Reinstate BLM Protections against Wasting Natural Gas on Public and Tribal Land

June 10, 2019
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org

(Oakland, CA – June 10, 2019) Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and a broad coalition of health, environmental, tribal citizen and Western groups are asking a court to reinstate the protections that reduce the waste of natural gas on public and tribal lands.

The Trump administration is trying to get rid of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Waste Prevention Rule, which reduces the waste of natural gas – a valuable public resource – saving taxpayers money while reducing harmful smog-forming and toxic pollution and emissions of methane, a potent climate pollutant.

The groups filed a motion for summary judgment with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Friday asking that it vacate the Trump administration’s recission and reinstate the Waste Prevention Rule.

“The Trump administration’s rollback squanders money that belongs to the American taxpayers, and is putting the health of American families at risk by exposing them to more dangerous air pollution,” said EDF Attorney Rosalie Winn.

More than $2 billion of American taxpayer-owned natural gas has been wasted through leaks or intentional venting and flaring since 2013 – money that could have gone toward schools, healthcare and other vital public projects across the West.

Congress required that BLM ensure companies drilling on public and tribal lands use “all reasonable precautions to prevent waste.” BLM created the Waste Prevention Rule to fulfill that mandate. The rule requires operators to control the venting, flaring, and leaks that waste natural gas, using proven and widely-available technologies that are already in use in the industry and already required by leading states.

But former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke eliminated all measures of the Waste Prevention Rule that would result in natural gas savings, even though his own agency found that rolling back the rule will cost Americans more than one billion dollars. Zinke justified the rollback in part by saying the Waste Prevention Rule is redundant because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also has methane regulations. However, the Trump administration is also trying to roll back those EPA methane protections.

EDF and its allies filed a lawsuit last October challenging Zinke’s rollback. The states of California and New Mexico have also filed suit.

“BLM admits the Rescission decreases energy production … and will have no effect on jobs or investment … This illogical reversal is just the latest in a string of unlawful actions BLM has taken to rid private companies of their obligation to conserve public resources,” the groups say in their brief.

The brief also says that with the recission, “BLM runs roughshod over its statutory duties to prevent waste, fails to base its changed positions on evidence and rationally explain them, and ignores significant environmental impacts.”

Sierra Club, Los Padres Forestwatch, the 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, the Montana Environmental Information Center, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Western Organization of Resource Councils, Wilderness Workshop, Wildearth Guardians, Wyoming Outdoor Council, Earthjustice, Clean Air Task Force, and Western Environmental Law Center joined EDF on the brief.

You can read more about the BLM Waste Prevention Rule, including all legal documents, on EDF’s website.

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