Bureau of Land Management’s Proposal to Revert to Pre-Obama Era Venting and Flaring Standards Denied by District Judge

Mar 2, 2018

In response to environmental concerns over methane emissions from oil and gas industry activities on federal lands, in November 2016 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued the Methane and Waste Prevention Rule, also known as the Venting and Flaring Rule. The rule requires companies to ensure oil and gas operations on federal lands take new measures to reduce unnecessary methane venting and flaring in order to prevent harmful emissions of the potent greenhouse gas, as well as to promote efficiency within oil and gas operations on federal lands. 

Late last week, the Trump Administration submitted a proposal to rescind the 2016 rule, and instead revert to looser pre-Obama era standards. A BLM press released explained that these proposed changes “would eliminate duplicative regulatory requirements and re-establish long-standing requirements that the 2016 final rule sought to replace.” The proposed change was met with a backlash from leaders at the local and national levels, with significant opposition from the environmental advocacy community.  In a joint statement, New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich said, “The BLM’s proposal to gut a rule designed to limit wasteful venting and flaring of natural gas would hurt taxpayers, schoolchildren, New Mexico’s economy, and our environment. Ultimately, it would rob the state of New Mexico of millions of dollars in royalties that could be used to pay for school books, hospitals, and infrastructure projects, and to keep our air clean.”

But in a turn of events following this proposal submission, Judge William Orrick, a deferral district court judge for the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction requiring BLM to fully enforce all provisions in the 2016 regulation. In a personal statement he said, “The BLM’s reasoning behind the Suspension Rule is untethered to evidence contradicting the reasons for implementing the Waste Prevention Rule…The have shown irreparable injury caused by the waste of publicly owned natural gas, increased air pollution and associated health impacts, and exacerbated climate impacts.” This is the second time the court has blocked efforts to rescind the methane rule following a similar denial in October 2017.

To view BLM’s revised proposal, click here: https://www.blm.gov/sites/blm.gov/files/Proposed Waste Prevention Rule 2.12.18.pdf

The BLM is currently accepting comments on the revised proposal until April 23, to electronically file a comment on the proposal, click here: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=BLM-2018-0001-0001