Court rules against BLM’s rollback of Waste Prevention Rule

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers invalidated the Trump administration's move on Thursday and called the "rulemaking process resulting in the rescission was wholly inadequate."

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In 90 days, an Obama-era Waste Prevention Rule will go back into effect after the United States District Court for the Norther District of California ruled against the Trump administration’s rollback of it. This means that the oil and gas industry will be responsible in meeting the Waste Prevention Rule’s requirements to prevent waste of gas on federal lands, according to a press release.

The Rule, which was enacted in 2016, protects against wasteful venting, flaring, and leaking of gas from drilling operations on federal and tribal lands. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rolled back the Rule in 2018, but U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers invalidated the Trump administration’s move on Thursday and called the “rulemaking process resulting in the rescission was wholly inadequate.”

“In its haste, BLM ignored its statutory mandateunder the Mineral Leasing Act, repeatedly failed to justify numerous reversals in policy positions previously taken, and failed to consider scientific findings and institutions relied upon by both prior Republican and Democratic administrations,” Rogers wrote in her decision.

According to the Sierra Club, “Interior Department data shows that companies wasted an estimated 462 billion cubic feet of gas on public and tribal lands through venting, flaring and leaks between 2009 and 2015 — enough gas to serve more than 6.2 million homes for a year.” Methane, a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, was the major component of the wasted gas, which included other pollutants and known carcinogens causing smog formation and impacting public health.

“The judge basically rejected every attempt by the Trump administration to gut these common-sense waste prevention measures on behalf of their oil & gas industry cronies,” Robin Cooley, an Earthjustice attorney representing tribal and conservation citizen groups, said. “Most importantly the judge said the administration cannot ignore the impacts on health and well-being of the people who live near oil and gas facilities. This is a resounding win for American taxpayers, the environment, and the communities most at-risk from this industry.”

According to the Sierra Club, “the Rule requires the oil and gas industry to use proven, low-cost technologies and practices to reduce venting and flaring and to fix leaks in infrastructure. It also saves taxpayers millions of dollars by requiring companies to pay royalties when they waste gas on public lands.”

The most recent decision by the court makes it the third ruling against the Trump administration’s attempt to rollback the Waste Prevention Rule. Earthjustice is representing the Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights, and Western Organization of Resource Councils in the case against BLM.

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