BLM Proposes to Gut Waste Prevention Standards

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced a proposal to effectively gut waste prevention standards adopted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 2016. The 2016 rule requires oil and gas companies operating on federal and tribal lands to take commonsense and cost-effective measures to reduce preventable leaks and venting of methane, the primary component of natural gas. Under the proposal released today, most of those protections would be rescinded – returning BLM to pre-2016 policies that are almost forty years old and that BLM previously found resulted in “unacceptably high” levels of waste.
“The BLM rule has enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress and across the West. Despite this broad support, Secretary Zinke has repeatedly tried to unwind these critical protections. The proposal he put forward today would only serve to reward the least responsible actors in industry at a time when other companies are moving forward to tackle methane waste. Gutting the rule would allow unchecked waste of natural gas, unnecessary pollution, and the loss of revenue to communities and tribes to address critical needs such as schools and roads.”
• Fred Krupp, President, Environmental Defense Fund
Background
With this proposed revision, Secretary Zinke is allowing millions of dollars’ worth of taxpayer-owned natural gas to continue to be wasted.
Inaction is already hurting the American taxpayer. Since development of this rule began in 2013, almost $2 billion worth of American taxpayer-owned natural gas has been wasted largely due to avoidable leaks, flaring and intentional releases of methane. The BLM waste reduction standards, adopted in November 2016, were modeled after policies pioneered in Western states like Colorado and Wyoming with the support of local elected officials, leading oil and gas companies, and environmental groups.
More than 80 percent of Western voters, who live and work near public lands, support this rule, and more than two-thirds of voters across the country want to keep the rule in place.
Despite that support, opponents of the standards asked a federal district court in Wyoming for a preliminary injunction, which would have put the standards on hold indefinitely. In January 2017, the court denied that request.
In May last year, opponents attempted to repeal the standards using the Congressional Review Act, but after an outpouring of support for the rule from across the country, the effort was rejected by a bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate.
In June 2017, Secretary Zinke attempted to unilaterally suspend many of these same protections, without providing any opportunity for public comment and without considering the additional wasted gas or harmful air pollution that would result from his actions. In response to legal challenges (led by the Attorney’s General of California and New Mexico and a broad coalition of environmental and conservation groups), a federal district court judge overturned the Secretary’s attempted suspension as unlawful.
In December 2017, Secretary Zinke issued a second, one-year suspension of the rule. That decision has also been challenged by states, environmental organizations and conservation groups, and is currently being reviewed by a federal district court.
You can find more information – including all legal documents – on EDF’s website.

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