The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled October 5 that the Trump administration illegally suspended the Methane Waste Prevention Rule. The decision is a big win for the plaintiffs, including the WORC network and Dakota Resource Council affiliate Fort Berthold POWER.
“The Court FINDS and DECLARES that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management violated the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 551 et seq., when it issued a notice on June 15, 2017 . . . postponing the compliance date for certain provisions of the Waste Prevention . . . Rule . . . after the rule had already gone into effect,” said Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Laporte in her ruling. “The Court hereby VACATES the Postponement Notice and ORDERS Defendants to immediately reinstate the Waste Prevention . . . Rule in its entirety.”
The BLM Methane Waste Prevention Rule is a commonsense and cost-effective protection requiring the oil and gas industry to monitor wells on public and tribal lands for leaks, repair faulty equipment, reduce noisy and wasteful flaring, and capture natural gas emissions instead of releasing them into the atmosphere.
The BLM Methane Waste Prevention Rule went into effect in January 2017. BLM had received extensive public input at public hearings and tribal meetings in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado and North Dakota. BLM had received more than 300,000 written comments that overwhelmingly supported the rule.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke suspended provisions of the BLM Waste Prevention Rule in June without engaging in any public process.
“Venting and flaring methane at drilling sites wastes valuable public resources, costing taxpayers millions in lost revenue each year,” said Robin Cooley, staff attorney for Earthjustice. “The Waste Prevention rule also has the same greenhouse gas benefits as taking nearly a million cars off the road each year and helps reduce the serious health hazards for surrounding communities.”
Zinke’s order to suspend the commonsense rule “unlawfully cut the public out,” Cooley said. “It arbitrarily short-circuited the rule-making process, ignoring the concerns raised by thousands of people over the months-long public process. Judge Laporte reaffirmed the important role the public has in preserving natural resources and protecting public health.”
Laporte’s decision reinstates the BLM Waste Prevention Rule and restores the rule’s original compliance.
“The Trump Administration has exhausted every avenue to delay a rule that will improve the air quality and reduce waste on the Fort Berthold reservation and surrounding communities,” said Fort Berthold POWER President and WORC board member Lisa DeVille. “The oil and gas industry’s mission is to make a profit, even if making a profit comes at the expense of our communities’ health and environment. The judge’s ruling is an affirmation that this administration is willing to do just about anything, even go above the law, to allow the oil and gas industry to have free reign”
What Does This Ruling Mean?
This ruling means that the BLM Waste Prevention Rule will remain in effect for at least a few more months. The proposed formal administrative 18-month stay of the rule is currently in a 30-day comment period, which ends on November 6. Depending on the outcome of the comment period the stay could go into effect rather quickly, or it could be delayed. So in summary this ruling keeps the rule going until at least mid-late November. Stay tuned for more updates.
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