Methane standards fight continues

Organizing efforts on federal methane standards kept WORC and its member groups busy throughout 2017. WORC beat the Trump administration in Congress and the courts. Without the persistence of WORC and the member groups, the methane rules could be wiped out by now. So, what is the status of these standards?

EPA methane standard

On Nov. 8, 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued two Notices of Data Availability to justify delaying the rule and to request comments on proposed changes. The notices gave new information on EPA’s authority to stay the rule, “technological, resource, and economic challenges with implementing fugitive emissions requirements,” and cost-benefit analysis of delaying the rule. EPA took comments and left the rule in effect for at least another 30 days, pending EPA publishing a final rule. This means a recission or replacement rule could come as soon as January.

BLM methane standard

WORC is part of three lawsuits on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) methane rule — one in Wyoming District Court and two in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. In the Wyoming suit, WORC intervened to oppose an industry lawsuit aimed at undermining the legal authority of the BLM rule.

In the first court case in the 9th Circuit, WORC and allies challenged and overturned Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s suspension of the rule. WORC contended the secretary did not follow proper process. BLM has appealed the decision. The second suit challenges Zinke’s suspension of the BLM methane rule after Zinke did follow proper procedure. Several conservation groups joined WORC’s second suit. California and New Mexico also filed.

On the administrative side, BLM published a final rule on Dec. 8, 2017 delaying the 2018 provisions until 2019. In addition, the White House Office of Management and Budget is reviewing the rule recission or replacement, which will likely be released in draft form in January. WORC expects BLM will hold hearings and at least a 60-day comment period.

Litigation involving WORC

District of Wyoming Suit (Industry Challenge of Rule)

  • On Oct. 30, 2017, the District of Wyoming agreed to a Trump administration request to delay litigation as BLM goes through its rulemaking process to repeal, revise, or rescind the rule pursuant to Executive Order 13,783.
  • In late November 2017, environmental groups filed a request with the District of Wyoming to reject the preliminary injunction requested by industry groups.

9th Circuit Lawsuits (Executive Stay Challenge and Rule Suspension Challenge)

  • On Oct. 4, 2017, the Northern District of California determined BLM’s June 15, 2017 postponement was unlawful, and the January 17, 2018 compliance date stood for the phased-in provisions. The court determined BLM improperly used the Administrative Procedure Act to justify postponement of a rule that was in effect.
  • On Dec, 4, 2017, BLM appealed the Oct. 4, 2017 Northern District of California decision that the June 2017 BLM delay was unlawful to the 9th Circuit.
  • On Dec. 19, 2017, WORC, along with conservation groups, and the states of California and New Mexico filed suits in the 9th Circuit challenging the suspension of the rule. WORC also filed a preliminary injunction urging the court to put the rule back into effect.

What’s next for methane standards?

The first quarter of 2018 will be full of action on the methane rules. We will likely see methane standards recission/replacements from the BLM and EPA. We will also have battles to fight in the courts.

If you care about methane pollution and waste, we need your help to stop reversal of methane standards.

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