Amicus brief makes case that Interior’s rollback violates federal law by authorizing waste of public oil and gas resources, harming the public interest
Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today joined a group of 51 lawmakers, led by U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), in filing an amicus brief challenging the U.S Department of the Interior’s decision to revise and effectively reverse the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) 2016 Methane and Waste Prevention rule.
“Despite Congress upholding the BLM methane rule, the Trump Administration sought to undermine the will of Congress, the American people, and the law by illegally suspending this rule,” said Bennet. “More methane waste will pollute our air and water – exacerbating climate change and unleashing devastating effects on public health and our environment. Colorado’s commonsense methane standards are bringing cleaner air and a thriving economy to our state. Instead of following in Colorado’s footsteps, the Trump Administration is weakening the very measures that protect our air and curb one of the biggest drivers of climate change.”
“The Trump rollback of the Methane Waste and Prevention Rule was an egregious giveaway to irresponsible polluters, greenlighting the waste of publicly-owned resources and authorizing damage to the environment. In New Mexico, we lose nearly $43 million each year in royalty revenues from methane waste on public lands, money that should be going to fund schools and infrastructure. BLM’s own analysis found that scrapping the methane waste prevention rule would lead to more than $1 billion in wasted natural gas and pollution nationwide, but still the Trump administration is determined to serve the interest of the worst polluters in the industry and trample any efforts to protect taxpayers and public health and combat climate change,” said Udall. “This brief makes it clear that Congress’s intent in enacting the Mineral Leasing Act was not to protect the profitability of industry but to protect the public interest. I applaud states like New Mexico that are stepping up to stop methane waste on their own and will continue to speak up in Congress when laws are outright violated by this administration.”
“President Trump is gutting key public land and environmental protections and wreaking havoc on communities across the nation,” said Grijalva. “Polluters shouldn’t be allowed to waste valuable public resources or harm our planet and our public health without consequence. I’m proud to co-lead this amicus brief alongside dedicated House and Senate colleagues who have steadfastly advocated strong methane regulations, and I’m confident the plaintiffs in this case will prevail.”
The amicus brief, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, challenges the Trump administration’s gutting of the Methane and Waste Prevention Rule. Under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, the government is required to prevent unnecessary waste of oil and gas resources on federal and Tribal lands. In the brief, the lawmakers argue that Interior’s revised rule violates the Mineral Leasing Act by authorizing practices known to waste tax payer-owned resources and harm the public interest.
The 2016 methane waste prevention rule was designed to limit leaking, venting, and flaring from natural gas operations on federal and Tribal lands – wasteful practices that unnecessarily release methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and other dangerous pollutants into the air and waste hundreds of millions in taxpayer-owned resources every year. The Trump administration, however, gutted this common-sense rule and replaced it with a rule that authorizes wasting public resources and damage to the environment. Every year, an estimated $330 million of natural gas is wasted by the oil and gas industry from operations on public and Tribal lands.
In 2018, the BLM revised the 2016 rule with a rule entitled Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties and Resource Conservation; Rescission or Revision of Certain Requirements. The revised rule removed waste minimization plans, well drilling and completion requirements, pneumatic controller and diaphragm pump requirements, storage vessels requirements, and leak detection and repair requirements from the 2016 rule. The gas-capture requirement was modified to allow BLM to defer to state or Tribal regulations in determining when the flaring of associated gas from oil wells will be royalty-free. Modifications were also made to the downhole well maintenance and liquids unloading requirements and to the measuring and reporting volumes of gas vented and flared.
Bennet has long pushed to preserve BLM’s methane waste prevention rule. Bennet led a bicameral group of Western lawmakers in March 2018 urging the Department of the Interior to hold public hearings and extend the comment period prior to any revision of the methane rule. In May 2017, Bennet voted to defeat a Senate resolution to repeal the methane rule.
A copy of the full amicus brief is available HERE.