Trump Administration Continues Senseless Attack on Methane Waste Standards by Eliminating BLM Rule

EDF plans to challenge BLM’s decision to eliminate critical waste reduction standards

September 18, 2018
Stacy MacDiarmid, (512) 691-3439
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) Today Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke finalized rules eliminating protections that reduce waste and pollution from oil and gas operations on federal and tribal lands.

“Secretary Zinke is once again putting the interests of the most poorly operated oil and gas companies ahead of the American taxpayer,” said Matt Watson, Associate Vice President for Energy at Environmental Defense Fund. “By his agency’s own analysis, this move will cost more than 299 billion cubic feet in wasted natural gas, representing lost revenue for local needs like roads and schools and more pollution for impacted communities.”

More than $2 billion of American taxpayer owned natural gas has been wasted through leaks or intentional venting and flaring from public lands since 2013. However, instead of moving to cut this waste, Secretary Zinke today finalized a rule that would eliminate key components of standards that address this problem.

At the same time the Trump administration is rolling back the BLM rule, it is attempting to eliminate the EPA methane rule—last week introducing the first of two proposals meant to first weaken and then eliminate EPA’s authority to regulate oil and gas methane. If these proposals were to be successful, the result would be a weak federal framework that would reduce oil and gas methane emissions by no more than about three percent by 2025, according to EDF’s initial analysis.

“At a time when oil and gas is facing heightened competition from cleaner, cheaper fuel sources, dismantling both the EPA and BLM rules is a self-inflicted wound—severely threatening industry’s social license to operate,” said Watson.

Earlier this year, Interior Secretary Zinke heard from more than a half-million Americans opposed to the elimination of the Methane Waste Rule. Stakeholders opposing Secretary Zinke’s action included law professors, faith leaders, tribes, Latino groups, local elected officials, health advocates and others.

A recent Colorado College poll also found that seven in 10 Western voters, including a majority of Republicans, support a strong BLM methane rule.

Zinke’s move also follows an attempt to repeal the BLM methane rule via a Congressional Review Act resolution, which was rejected in May 2017 by a bipartisan group of senators.

In seeking to justify the rollback of the BLM waste rule, Zinke has called it redundant—pointing to EPA methane regulations and state programs. Last week’s actions from the EPA show the cynicism of this claim. BLM has a fiduciary duty to get a fair return for taxpayers when oil and gas companies exploit publicly owned resources, and the BLM rule was specifically designed with that obligation in mind. If the BLM and EPA rules are both eliminated or weakened, Americans will be left with virtually no federal protections from oil and gas methane pollution.

A recent comprehensive scientific study indicates oil and gas methane emissions in the U.S. are 60 percent higher than government estimates—amounting to approximately 13 million metric tons per year, enough gas to fuel 10 million homes.

All legal documents related to prior BLM cases are available on EDF’s website.

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