Judge Rejects Efforts to Block Vital Natural Gas Waste Prevention Standards on Federal and Tribal Lands

Preliminary Injunction Denied for Protections that Will Conserve Resources, Protect Taxpayers, Reduce Pollution

January 16, 2017
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org
 (January 16, 2017) A Wyoming judge today rejected efforts to block the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) standards to reduce the waste of natural gas on federal and tribal lands before those standards take effect.

The standards will limit the amount of valuable natural gas that oil and gas companies can leak, vent, or flare on millions of acres of federal and tribal lands – a problem that results in harmful air pollution and costs taxpayers millions of dollars. Opponents who are challenging these needed protections had asked the court for a preliminary injunction, which would have put the standards on hold during litigation. Today, Judge Scott Skavdahl in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming denied that request

“The judge’s decision today to deny a preliminary injunction means that these common sense protections will take effect as planned, with cross-cutting benefits for rural communities,” said Lead Attorney Peter Zalzal of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), which is a party to the case. “BLM’s standards will help prevent the waste of valuable natural gas, and that will increase money that can be used for schools and important infrastructure while simultaneously helping to protect the health of communities living in close proximity to oil and gas development.”

Leakage, venting and flaring of natural gas wastes an important domestic energy resource that could otherwise be used to the benefit of taxpayers, states and tribes. A recent study from ICF International found that in 2013 drilling on federal and tribal lands– mostly in the rural Western U.S. – leaked, vented and flared natural gas worth about $330 million. An analysis from the Western Values Project estimates taxpayers could lose almost $800 million over the next decade if wasteful venting and flaring practices continue. 

The BLM standards will help protect Americans from the damages caused by air pollution and climate change, will help protect communities across the West that are impacted by oil and gas operations. Elected officials and thousands of community members from across the West have voiced support for BLM’s efforts to reduce waste. In a recent bipartisan poll, 80 percent of respondents in the Western U.S. supported the BLM’s common sense efforts to curtail waste of this valuable resource.  

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. Other prominent Western leaders and energy experts have filed declarations in support of the standards.

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

You can find all the legal documents in the case here.

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