EDF, Allies File Lawsuit Challenging Trump Administration Attack on Methane Waste Standards

October 1, 2018
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org

(San Francisco, CA –  October 1, 2018) Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and a broad coalition of health, environmental, Native American and Western citizens’ groups have filed a lawsuit to stop the Trump administration from eliminating protections that reduce waste and associated pollution from oil and gas operations 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.

“The Trump administration’s action will imminently harm Americans by allowing substantial waste of natural gas that will result in lost money for taxpayers and additional air pollution that puts families at risk,” said EDF Lead Attorney Peter Zalzal. “We plan to vigorously challenge the administration’s decision to eliminate the Waste Prevention Rule, which completely disregards these foundational public interests.”

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

Congress mandated that BLM must require companies drilling on public and tribal lands to use “all reasonable precautions to prevent waste.” BLM created the Waste Prevention Rule to fulfill that mandate. It 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.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recently finalized a plan to eliminate key components of the Waste Prevention Rule.

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 already trying to roll back those EPA methane protections.

BLM admits that its rollback of the Waste Prevention Rule will hurt average Americans — costing taxpayers up to $80 million in lost royalty revenues over the next ten years — while having little benefit for operators. BLM’s own analysis shows these changes will result in less energy production and won’t accelerate investment or increase jobs.

More than half a million Americans have contacted BLM to oppose a rollback of the Waste Prevention Rule. A recent Colorado College poll found that seven in 10 Western voters, including a majority of Republicans, support a strong BLM methane rule. And Congress, in a bipartisan vote, rejected an attempt to repeal the Waste Prevention Rule in May of 2017.

EDF filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California late Friday, asking the court to vacate Zinke’s rollback and reinstate the Waste Prevention Rule.

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 in the lawsuit.

The states of California and New Mexico have also filed a lawsuit to stop the administration from gutting the methane waste standards.

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

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