BLM Moves to Suspend Standards to Prevent Waste of Public Resources

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Delay Would Allow for Continued Waste of Taxpayer-Owned Natural Gas

Stacy MacDiarmid, (512) 691-3439, smacdiarmid@edf.org

(Washington, DC) Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke today placed on hold until January of 2019 a  suite of protections issued by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that require oil and gas companies operating on federal and tribal lands to take common-sense measures to reduce preventable leaks and venting of methane, the primary component of natural gas. 

After similar efforts were rejected by both the courts and Congress, the Trump administration is trying once again to suspend rules to protect taxpayers and Native American tribes from the needless waste of their natural gas resources. The rules will also reduce emissions of other damaging air pollutants, including smog-forming volatile organic compounds, and hazardous air pollutants like benzene, a known human carcinogen.

Once again, we see Secretary Zinke and the Trump Administration catering to the most poorly-operated companies in the oil and gas industry, at the expense of taxpayers and tribal communities and to the notable disadvantage of companies that are trying to reduce waste and operate responsibly” said EDF Associate Vice President of Climate and Energy Matt Watson.

With this delay, Secretary Zinke will allow at least an additional $330 million of taxpayer-owned natural gas to continue to be wasted. That’s enough natural gas to meet the heating and cooking needs of 1.5 million American homes for a year.

Inaction is already hurting the American taxpayer. Since development of this rule began in 2013, more than $1.8 billion worth of American taxpayer-owned natural gas has been wasted largely due to avoidable leaks, flaring and intentional releases of methane. The BLM waste reduction standards, adopted in January, were modeled after policies pioneered in Western states like Colorado and Wyoming with the support of local elected officials, leading oil and gas companies and environmental groups. 

Just last month, with the support of both industry and environmental groups, Colorado strengthened its nationally leading methane reduction rule, and Pennsylvania took key steps to adopt methane reduction standards.

“While states are moving forward to implement and strengthen their rules on methane, Secretary Zinke is running backwards,” said Dan Grossman, National Director of State Programs for EDF.

More than 80 percent of Western voters, who live and work near public lands, support this rule, and more than two-thirds of votersacross the country want to keep the rule in place.

Despite that support, opponents of the standards asked a federal district court in Wyoming for a preliminary injunction, which would have put the standards on hold indefinitely. In January, the court denied that request.

In May, opponents attempted to repeal the standards using the Congressional Review Act, but after an outpouring of support for the rule from across the country, the effort was rejected by a bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate.

In June, Secretary Zinke attempted to unilaterally suspend many of these same protections, without providing any opportunity for public comment and without considering the additional wasted gas or harmful air pollution that would result from his actions. A federal district court in California struck down this decision in October 2017, in response to legal challenges filed by the states of California and New Mexico and separate challenges filed by EDF and a broad coalition of environmental conservation and public health organizations.

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Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading international nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on EDF Voices, and .

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