EDF, Conservation and Tribal Groups Urge Court to Block Unlawful Delay of BLM’s Waste Prevention Rule

Groups Defend Long-Overdue Limits on Waste of Natural Gas on Public and Tribal Lands

January 25, 2018
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – January 25, 2018) EDF and a coalition of conservation and tribal citizen groups are urging a U.S. District Court to block the latest effort by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to delay the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Waste Prevention Rule – a safeguard that prevents the waste of natural gas produced on the nation’s public and tribal lands and protects people across the U.S. from dangerous pollution.

On December 8, 2017, Secretary Zinke issued a rule delaying the implementation of the Waste Prevention Rule until January of 2019. EDF and its allies filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California challenging that decision, and asked the court to take swift action to protect the Waste Prevention Rule. The groups filed a reply brief in the case last night.

Zinke’s attempt to delay the Waste Prevention Rule “irreversibly wastes 9 billion cubic feet of publicly-owned natural gas and increases emissions of climate-endangering methane and smog-forming volatile organic compounds by hundreds of thousands of tons,” said the groups in their brief. “It yanks away critical protections that Americans … have expected and depended upon … To remedy this harm, this Court should preliminarily enjoin the Secretary’s eleventh-hour bid to remove public protections.”

The rule in question 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 and a potent driver of destructive climate change. Between 2009 and 2015, oil and gas companies wasted enough natural gas to supply more than 6.2 million homes for an entire year.

The rule also reduces emissions of other damaging air pollutants, including smog-forming volatile organic compounds and benzene, which causes cancer. Secretary Zinke’s delay has immediate and irreparable adverse health impacts on tribes, local communities, ranchers and families across the West.

“The Secretary does not controvert that once such pollutants enter the air, they cannot be removed; nor does the Secretary dispute the clear, well-documented linkages between these air pollutants and health and climate harms,” said EDF and its allies in their brief. “Furthermore, the Secretary does not challenge the showing of substantial, specific, and imminent harm faced by the Citizen Groups’ members who live in close proximity to oil and gas facilities managed by BLM. Each day [of the delay], these members breathe harmful pollution that creates and exacerbates health issues—pollution that would not occur if [the delay] were enjoined.”

The Trump Administration has tried repeatedly to suspend the Waste Prevention Rule. Their earlier efforts were rejected by both the courts and Congress.

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 joined EDF on the brief.

The Attorneys General of California and New Mexico are also challenging Zinke’s delay of the Waste Prevention Standards, and they also filed a reply brief last night.

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

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