BLM Suspends Critical Natural Gas Waste Prevention Standards That Already Survived Congressional, Legal Attacks

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is suspending natural gas standards that would prevent the unchecked waste of our nation’s energy resources by private oil and gas companies operating on millions of acres of federal and tribal lands. This far reaching action was taken without opportunity for public comment.

BLM is publishing the indefinite suspension even though a Wyoming federal district court denied a request for a stay of these very standards, and even though Congress voted against suspending the standards.

“This action is more evidence that the worst elements of the oil and gas industry are running amok, with an administration only too happy to throw common sense out the window in service of their agenda of indifference to the public interest,” said Mark Brownstein, Vice President of Climate and Energy for Environmental Defense Fund. “Disregarding the will of the people, the interests of taxpayers, and legal safeguards, all in the name of doing the bidding of the oil and gas industry is shameful and, in the end, will be politically disastrous for the Administration, and for the industry.”

The standards would 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 and results in harmful air pollution. Currently, private oil and gas companies squander nearly 110 billion cubic feet of gas each year through widespread leaks, intentional venting, or simply burning it off (flaring).

More than 70 percent of voters nationwide support BLM’s natural gas waste standards, which were adopted to address the $330 million worth of the public’s natural gas that is wasted each year.

This suspension is industry’s third bite at the apple.

Just last month, opponents in Congress attempted to repeal the standards using the Congressional Review Act, but the vote in the Senate fell short after a diverse group of citizens from across the country voiced their outrage that Congress would side with the oil and gas lobby over the American taxpayer.

Opponents also asked a federal district court in Wyoming for a preliminary injunction, which would have put the standards on hold. In January, the court denied that request. Litigation over a challenge to the standards is proceeding (EDF is a party to the case).

Now, the Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is invoking administrative fiat to do the bidding of the oil and gas industry.

Today’s announcement from BLM comes just hours after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is proposing a massive loophole in its air pollution safeguards for the oil and gas industry – even though it acknowledged that the proposed two-year delay may make American children sick.

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

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