Court Decision Reinstates BLM Methane Pollution Rule

A Win for Wildlife and Public Lands!

Methane, an invisible super pollutant and energy resource, will no longer be wasted on America’s cherished public lands as a result of lawsuit brought by the National Wildlife Federation and its partners. A federal court found the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)’s previous attempt to suspend portions of the methane waste rule without public process to be illegal, meaning that oil and gas companies must follow the rule.

Senior Council for the National Wildlife Federation, Jim Murphy, says:

“The court has clearly stated that a high speed attempt to cut out the public and freeze measures that protect wildlife is illegal. With this ruling, the industry must comply with sensible controls to capture methane waste, a public resource and climate super pollutant. The law requires these controls, Congress has voted to uphold them, and the Department of Interior should get to work putting these measures in place, not embarking on yet another attempt to allow this pollution to continue to harm wildlife and our public lands.”

This is a huge win for wildlife! With far reaching impacts that will make it hard to delay other environmental protections.

Pika depend on public lands. Photo from Marshal Hedin via Flickr Creative Commons

However, the fight isn’t over yet…

The Department of the Interior has already proposed a new delay for this commonsense rule. The BLM has proposed suspending key provisions in the rule- a much needed 2016 protection that was implemented to curb methane waste (by 40-45% from 2012 levels by 2025) from oil and gas operations on public lands. The proposed delay would allow industry to keep wasting methane on public lands until 2019, which will give the Trump Administration time to re-write and weaken the rule, or repeal it entirely.

This would be a disastrous step backwards and would result in worse air quality, lost energy resources, more climate impacts, and the loss of millions of dollars in royalties (earnings due to the public). The methane standard is a popular rule, with bipartisan support. Earlier this year, Congress rejected an attempt to overturn the rule, clearly siding with public opinion on this commonsense measure.

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Methane is a Climate Super Pollutant

Methane is a super pollutant, with 80 times the climate impacts of carbon dioxide in the short term. This pollution harms wildlife, communities, and the outdoor economy. As the climate warms, trout are losing valuable habitat as cold, fast flowing streams become shallower and warmer; American pika in the Rocky Mountains will have nowhere to flee as their alpine habitats warm past the level to which they can adapt; and the pygmy rabbit will lose its sagebrush habitat as the threats of wildfire and invasive species grow.

This pollution also impacts America’s cherished public lands. These landscapes help support the $877 billion outdoor recreation economy and the thousands of American’s that enjoy birding, hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping. Public lands ensure safe habitat for the country’s unique and diverse fish and wildlife in addition to other valuable services such as clean air and water. Without these regulations, methane pollution will continue to impact these treasured resources.

Pygmy rabbit. Photo from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A Wasted Resource

The methane that escapes from the thousands of oil and gas wells across public lands could be captured with existing technology to power American homes rather than wasted in a way that hurts our wild landscapes. The Interior Department estimates between 2009 and 2015, enough natural gas was lost on US public lands to supply about 6.2 million households with electricity for a year. The revenue from royalties that could have gone to tribes, states, and taxpayers, instead was lost through leaking, venting, and flaring at oil and natural gas wells – approximately $23 million annually according to a 2010 GAO report.

We Need Common Sense Protections on Our Public Lands

By suspending the rule for a year, the BLM will hurt wildlife and public lands, benefiting only oil and gas companies that practice lax pollution control. This is a straightforward, commonsense rule that will significantly reduce waste of a valuable resource and dramatically reduce the amount of a harmful pollutant into the atmosphere- it is a win-win requirement.

Tell the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management that you support strong methane regulations in order to protect wildlife and public lands.

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