Outdoor Council Joins Lawsuit to Reinstate Federal Methane Rule

Outdoor Council Joins Lawsuit to Reinstate Federal Methane Rule

The Wyoming Outdoor Council joined a broad coalition of conservation and citizen groups in a lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for illegally rescinding most provisions of its 2016 methane waste rule.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court on Friday, seeks to reinstate the 2016 rule to reduce methane waste and pollution to protect public health and address the longstanding problem of lost production royalties caused when the fossil-fuel industry wastes publicly owned methane — a finite resource.

“Wyomingites value clean air and we support a rule that implements best practices to avoid public health hazards related to unnecessary emissions and leaks from oil and gas operations,” Wyoming Outdoor Council Policy Advocate Mary Flanderka said. “Many companies are already putting these commonsense practices in place. It’s the right thing to do, and a business decision that pays for itself in gas captured and put to market.”

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In the legal challenge, the groups said the rescission violates federal law by downplaying the significance of the rule’s benefits to public health, local communities, and the climate. The BLM can’t explain its 180-degree turn in any meaningful way — other than its unsupported claim that these rules create an “unnecessary burden” on oil and gas companies.

The Wyoming Natural Gas Waste Report, compiled by the Outdoor Council and the Environmental Defense Fund, finds that Wyoming is missing out on an estimated $8.8 million to $16.1 million each year in unrealized tax revenue due to wasted natural gas. Of that statewide loss, $3.4 million to $6.5 million is uncollected ad valorem revenue — property tax that goes directly to counties. That money could have gone to the purchase of emergency equipment, or road and bridge repair, or human services like nurses and libraries.

While the BLM backtracks on reasonable measures to curb natural gas waste, Wyoming is moving independently to finalize its own guidance requiring that all new and modified oil and gas facilities are inspected at least twice a year to detect and repair leaks.

The Outdoor Council supports the guidance and is encouraging the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality to implement the measure independently of federal actions.
“We commend Wyoming DEQ and Gov. Matt Mead’s leadership on this win-win-win approach for clean air and maximizing revenue for both Wyoming communities and oil and gas producers,” Flanderka said.

The Outdoor Council intervened to defend the BLM’s methane waste prevention rule in 2016 in a challenge from industry, and successfully challenged the BLM’s “suspension” and “rescission” rules under the Trump administration. In response to the BLM’s latest action (which removes most of the good provisions in the original), we now join this affirmative challenge.

Founded in 1967, the Wyoming Outdoor Council works to protect public lands, wildlife, and clean air and water. Learn more at wyomingoutdoorcouncil.org.