Friday, February 23, 2018

Court Reverses 'Untethered' Suspension of BLM Methane Rule

A federal court reversed the Trump administration's plan to suspend restrictions on methane emissions from oil and gas development. (Credit: NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory) Click to Enlarge.
A federal court dealt another major blow last night to the Trump administration's attempts to unwind Obama-era restrictions on methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that the Bureau of Land Management did not justify its decision to postpone core provisions of its 2016 Methane and Waste Prevention Rule.

"The BLM's reasoning behind the Suspension Rule is untethered to evidence contradicting the reasons for implementing the Waste Prevention Rule, and so plaintiffs are likely to prevail on the merits," Judge William Orrick wrote in a late-night opinion.

"They have shown irreparable injury caused by the waste of publicly owned natural gas, increased air pollution and associated health impacts, and exacerbated climate impacts," he wrote.

Orrick issued a preliminary injunction requiring BLM to fully enforce the regulation.  The agency just released a broader proposal for a permanent rollback of most of the rule's provisions, but that plan won't be finalized until April, at the earliest.

The court's decision — the second time the court has blocked Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's efforts to sideline the methane rule — is a tremendous victory for environmentalists and states that supported the Obama-era plan to reduce venting, flaring and leakage of the potent greenhouse gas on public and tribal lands.

California, New Mexico, and a coalition of environmental groups filed suit in December when the Trump administration suspended key provisions that required oil and gas drillers to craft waste minimization plans, use methane leak detection technology and cut back on flaring, among other measures.

They have defended the Obama measure as a necessary effort to avoid the waste of natural resources and reel in planet-warming emissions.

Read more at Court Reverses 'Untethered' Suspension of BLM Methane Rule

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