HUD official quits amid Interior Department watchdog controversy
California, New Mexico sue over Trump methane pollution rollback
The Democratic attorneys general of California and New Mexico sued the Trump administration to stop it from rolling back methane pollution standards for oil and natural gas drilling.
Hours after the Interior Department unveiled its final action to weaken the Obama administration's methane rule for drillers on federal land, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed suit in northern California's federal court.
Becerra and Balderas argue that Interior's Bureau of Land Management didn't properly justify their repeal of the key portions of the methane rule, and that the new standard is legally insufficient.
"With this attempt to axe the Waste Prevention Rule, the Trump administration risks the air our children breathe and at taxpayers' expense," Becerra said in a statement.
"We've sued the administration before over the illegal delay and suspension of this rule and will continue doing everything in our power to hold them accountable for the sake of our people and planet."
California's Air Resources Board is also part of the lawsuit.
"Repealing a rule that is working is just another giveaway to an industry that doesn't need it," said Mary Nichols, the board's chairwoman.
Under Tuesday's final action, key requirements of the Obama administration's 2017 rule were repealed, including mandating that drillers write plans to minimize methane output and that they capture certain percentages of the methane that is vented.
Drillers are now subject to almost the same requirements they had to meet before the Obama rule, including the expectation that they do not have to capture methane if it would be cost-prohibitive.
Interior said the changes would save significant amounts of unnecessary regulatory costs.
"The Trump administration is committed to innovative regulatory improvement and environmental stewardship, while appropriately respecting the clear and distinct authorities of the states, tribes, as well as the direction we receive from Congress," Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in a statement.
Methane is the main component of natural gas, and is often released during drilling for both gas and oil. It is a greenhouse gas, at least 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide at warming the atmosphere.
Becerra has already racked up some victories in the Trump administration's methane rollback agenda.
In two previous attempts by the BLM to delay the Obama methane rule while officials worked to roll it back, Becerra's office successfully convinced federal judges that the administration's actions were illegal.