Carbondale’s Wilderness Workshop joins lawsuit over BLM methane rule suspension
December 20, 2017
A consortium of environmental advocacy groups, including Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop, have filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration over its decision to postpone compliance with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s waste methane rule.
“This administration’s effort to abandon a common-sense, waste preventing rule is bad for taxpayers, bad for people who live near BLM-authorized oil and gas development, and it will only intensify the climate crisis,” Peter Hart, staff attorney for the Wilderness Workshop, said in a press release issued Tuesday.
“We will continue working with our partners to ensure that the rule is not abandoned, and that the protections it affords to local economies, public health, and the climate are realized,” he said. “This is about good public policy and responsible stewardship of our public lands as well as mineral resources that we all own.”
Wilderness Workshop joins about a dozen other groups in challenging the latest move to postpone compliance under the federal Waste Prevention Rule.
"This administration's effort to abandon a common-sense, waste preventing rule is bad for taxpayers, bad for people who live near BLM-authorized oil and gas development, and it will only intensify the climate crisis."
Peter Hart, Wilderness Workshop, staff attorney
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The first attempt was successfully challenged earlier this year by conservation and tribal groups, along with the states of California and New Mexico. It was determined in October that the BLM failed to comply with federal notice and comment provisions. BLM immediately published notice that it would again try to suspend the rule.
The Waste Prevention Rule requires oil and gas companies operating under lease on federal lands to implement measures to fix leaks and capture waste methane before it escapes into the air.
Energy companies in Colorado have argued that the BLM rule is redundant, since Colorado has among the most stringent waste methane rules for all oil and gas operations, not just those on public lands.
The BLM rule was finalized in 2016. It updates 30-year-old regulations in an effort to reduce natural gas waste on public lands. A separate statement from the Western Environmental Law Center based in Oregon points out that, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, enough natural gas was leaked between 2009 and 2015 to serve more than 6 million households for a year.
The updated waste rule requires companies to perform leak detection and make repairs. It also restricts methane venting and flaring, which involves the deliberate act of releasing or burning off waste gas at the wellhead.
“BLM’s Waste Prevention Rule is one of the thoughtful regulations implemented before Trump took office that is intended to reduce the amount of natural gas wasted from production of oil and gas on public lands,” the Wilderness Workshop continues in its release.
Other Colorado Western Slope organizations joining the lawsuit are Citizens for a Healthy Community and San Juan Citizens Alliance. National organizations include the Clean Air Task Force, Center for Biological Diversity, Earthworks, National Wildlife Federation, and WildEarth Guardians.