Lawsuits Filed to Block New Standards to Reduce Waste of Natural Gas on Public Lands

Standards Would Reduce Pollution, Conserve Resources, and Protect Taxpayers

November 22, 2016
Contact: 
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org

(November 22, 2016) New standards that will reduce the waste of a valuable natural resource, protect the climate, and save American taxpayers tens of millions of dollars are now facing a legal challenge.

The standards will limit the amount of valuable natural gas that oil and gas companies can leak, vent, or flare on the 245 million acres of federal and tribal lands – a problem that worsens climate change and if unaddressed could cost taxpayers millions of dollars over the next decade. 

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) finalized the protections just one week ago, and the Attorneys General of Wyoming and Montana as well as oil and gas industry groups the Western Energy Alliance (WEA) and Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) have already sued in an attempt to stop these needed protections. 

“It’s unfortunate that opponents of the BLM standards have chosen to waste yet more taxpayer money to block commonsense protections that will prevent the waste of a valuable public resource,” said EDF Lead Attorney Peter Zalzal. “BLM’s waste prevention standards are legally and technically sound, they’ll help protect our families’ health and our climate, and they’ll recoup tens of millions of dollars for American taxpayers that are now being left on the table. EDF intends to vigorously defend the BLM standards.” 

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.  

Methane is the main component of natural gas, and is also a potent greenhouse gas that exacerbates climate change when it’s leaked into the atmosphere. That leakage is also a waste of natural gas that could otherwise be used – and sold to the benefit of the federal treasury, 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 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. 

BLM’s standards will reduce the waste of this important domestic energy resource, and will help protect communities across the West that are impacted by oil and gas operations. The standards require use of low-cost, readily-available technologies to capture methane – technologies that are already being deployed by industry leaders and several states across the west to reduce pollution and curtail waste. 

The case will be heard by Judge Scott Skavdahl in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming. Briefing and argument dates have not been announced yet. 

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