Groups Sue to Keep Methane Waste Rule

Gas flares at a well in Bakersfield, Calif. Photo Credit: Chris Jordan-Bloch/Earthjustice

Suzanne Potter
California News Service

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Two new lawsuits have been filed in federal court to stop the Trump administration from deep-sixing rules meant to reduce pollution, fight climate change and preserve public resources.

A dozen conservation groups and the state attorneys general of California and New Mexico filed suit on Tuesday to reinstate the methane waste rule, which would force oil and gas companies to install equipment to capture excess methane gas at their wells instead of venting it or burning it off.

The Bureau of Land Management suspended the rule until January 2019, arguing that it is too big a burden on industry.

Jim Murphy, senior counsel for the National Wildlife Federation, says Colorado already has similar requirements and the companies have complied without a problem.

“These measures in some ways pay for themselves because the industry actually, by putting in sensible measures, they capture more of the methane – and the methane is fuel that they can then sell,” he states. “It will certainly increase royalties for taxpayers.”

This rule has survived several attempts to thwart it. First, Congress rejected an attempt to roll it back using the Congressional Review Act.

Then the BLM tried to suspend it administratively, but was stopped in court.

Now, clean air advocates are hoping the judge will grant an injunction forcing the companies to comply starting this January.

Murphy says methane gas is a super pollutant that has 87 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide over the short term, which harms human health and the environment.

“And it’s fueling climate change, which is causing sea level rise,” he stresses. “It’s causing habitat degradation. It’s causing trout streams to warm. Climate change right now is one of the biggest threats to wildlife.”

The U.S. Interior Department reports that in 2014, oil and gas companies wasted enough gas to supply 1.5 million households for a year.

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