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Trump Administration Ordered to Enforce Methane Restrictions, Pursues Further Delay Instead

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Bakken shale gas flare in North Dakota. Hitting Home/Flickr

A federal court ordered the Trump administration Wednesday to reinstate an Obama-era methane rule it stayed this summer—the same day the Interior Department made a different kind of legal attempt to further delay the rule's implementation.

The Bureau of Land Management stayed the regulations on oil and gas producers in June, following a failed vote in the Senate to repeal the rule under the Congressional Review Act. However, U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Laporte of California ruled this week that the administration had not offered sufficient reasoning for the stay, and ordered the rule to be reinstated immediately.


Despite this setback, DOI is still working furiously to ensure polluters get plenty of leeway: the agency proposed Wednesday further delaying the rule's January 2018 compliance date under a different legal provision than the one in Laporte's ruling as it works to permanently rewrite or rescind the rule.

"By suspending the BLM methane rule, Interior Secretary [Ryan] Zinke and the Trump Administration make clear that they're fine with wasting taxpayer dollars and polluting our air so long as it helps their billionaire and lobbyist cronies," Lauren Pagel, policy director at Earthworks, said in a statement.

As reported by the Washington Post:

"Methane, the main component of natural gas underground, is a powerful accelerant of climate change. Through rules issued by the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, President Barack Obama sought to slow methane emissions from natural-gas wells as part of a multipronged effort to meet the U.S. emissions-reduction targets under the Paris climate accord.

But President Trump has announced he will pull the United States out of the Paris agreement, while at the same time rolling back many of the regulatory actions the previous administration took to address climate change.

Environmentalists who support the BLM rule, which addresses new and existing gas wells on public and tribal lands, say fiscal conservatives should take issue scraping the rule as well. That's because states, tribes and the federal government get royalty payments from oil and gas firms drilling on publicly owned lands. The more methane that is captured, the more money flows into government coffers.

'That just underscores how far outside the mainstream this administration is,' said Matt Watson, associate vice president of the climate and energy program at the Environmental Defense Fund."

For a deeper dive:

Washington Post, The Guardian, CNBC, Politico Pro, The Hill, Greenwire, LA Times

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