Energy & Environment

Court strikes down Trump administration’s methane rollback

A federal court late Wednesday struck down a Trump administration rule that weakened restrictions on methane gas releases from drilling on public land, restoring an Obama-era rule. 

In 2018, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rolled back parts of the prior rule that limited the release of the greenhouse gas. The change was expected to allow for more methane leaks in a process called flaring and add to air pollution. 

On Wednesday, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers determined that the rulemaking process used by the BLM was “wholly inadequate.”

“In its haste, BLM ignored its statutory mandate under the Mineral Leasing Act, repeatedly failed to justify numerous reversals in policy positions previously taken, and failed to consider scientific findings and institutions relied upon by both prior Republican and Democratic administrations,” wrote the Obama appointee. 

“In its zeal, BLM simply engineered a process to ensure a preordained conclusion,” she added in the decision’s conclusion.  “Where a court has found such widespread violations, the court must fulfill its duties in striking the defectively promulgated rule.”

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that can be 25 times more impactful than carbon dioxide in equal quantities. In 2018, it accounted for nearly 10 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity. 

The judge’s order will go into effect in 90 days, and she is requiring the BLM to chart its course of action in a report due in 30 days. 

BLM spokesperson Derrick Henry said he disagreed with the court’s ruling.

“Our commonsense deregulatory actions were lawful and based on the best available science,” Henry said in a statement to The Hill. “The Department will continue to implement President Trump’s agenda to create more American jobs, protect the safety of American workers, support domestic energy production and conserve our environment.”

 

Environmentalists who sued over the rollback celebrated the decision. 

“The judge basically rejected every attempt by the Trump administration to gut these common-sense waste prevention measures on behalf of their oil & gas industry cronies,” said Earthjustice attorney Robin Cooley in a statement. “The judge said the administration cannot ignore the impacts on health and well-being of the people who live near oil and gas facilities.”

–This report was updated at 1:09 p.m.

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