Wyoming Federal Court Overturns Common Sense Protections against Wasting Natural Gas on Public and Tribal Lands

Statement of EDF Lead Attorney Peter Zalzal – October 8, 2020

October 8, 2020
Sharyn Stein, 202-905-5718, sstein@edf.org

“We are disappointed, and deeply concerned, with today’s ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming vacating the Department of Interior’s 2016 Waste Prevention Rule.

“The court recognized the Department of the Interior’s clear authority to prevent harmful natural gas waste and that the measures the department adopted in 2016 would indeed cut waste. Nonetheless, it found the Waste Prevention Rule was unlawful based on its additional air quality benefits for tribal and Western communities.

“Today’s opinion reflects the Trump administration’s decision to cease defending the Waste Prevention Rule and instead attack it in this litigation. The opinion is also in great tension with another recent federal court opinion, which underscored the Department of the Interior’s solemn responsibility to prevent waste in a manner that protects the public interest.

“Waste of natural gas on public and tribal lands is a well-documented problem, costing taxpayers and tribes millions of dollars each year. Vacating the Waste Prevention Rule will harm tribal and Western communities by increasing the waste of natural gas and reducing revenues that these communities could otherwise use to fund roads and invest in schools and much-needed health care programs. This ruling is deeply troubling in light of the Department of the Interior’s clear responsibility to prevent the waste of public resources in a manner that safeguards public interests.

“We are evaluating all of our options to ensure the critical safeguards in the Waste Prevention Rule remain in place to confer these urgently needed benefits.”

· Peter Zalzal, lead attorney for Environmental Defense Fund


The Department of Interior’s Waste Prevention Rule require oil and gas companies operating on federal and tribal lands to take common sense measures to reduce preventable leaks and needless flaring of natural gas. Between 2009 and 2015, those companies wasted enough natural gas to supply more than 6.2 million homes for an entire year. EDF calculated the ongoing value of this wasted natural gas to be over 2.5 billion dollars.

Natural gas that is wasted through leaks, venting, or flaring also allows large amounts of unhealthy pollution into our air – including methane, which is a potent driver of climate change.

The Trump administration had repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to suspend and rescind the Waste Prevention Rule in both Congress and the courts — efforts that were struck down as unlawful.

The Waste Prevention Rule were then challenged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming by the Attorneys General of Wyoming and Montana, North Dakota and Texas, and by oil and gas industry groups Western Energy Alliance (WEA) and Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA).

The states of California and New Mexico and a group of 15 national, regional, tribal and local public health and environmental groups – including EDF – defended the rule in court.

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

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