Conservation and Tribal Citizen Groups Sue Trump Administration for Gutting BLM Waste Prevention Rule
A coalition of 17 conservation and tribal citizen groups filed a lawsuit Friday challenging the Trump administration's decision to gut the Bureau of Land Management's Waste Prevention Rule, stating that the rule violates a number of existing federal policies. The states of New Mexico and California have already filed a lawsuit challenging BLM's action.
"We are going to court on behalf of American taxpayers, public health and the planet," said Robin Cooley, an Earthjustice attorney representing the groups. "The Trump administration is not above the law—Interior Secretary Zinke cannot yank away a common-sense rule that was the product of years of careful deliberation simply to appease his friends in the oil and gas industry."
The common sense rule updated nearly 40-year-old standards by implementing cost-effective measures to reduce wasteful venting, flaring and leaking of publicly owned natural gas from federal and tribal lands. However, the administration's revised shell of a rule fails to take reasonable precautions to prevent waste and protect the public welfare, illegally relying almost entirely on inadequate or nonexistent state regulations in place of federal standards.
BLM adopted the Waste Prevention Rule to address rampant waste of public resources. BLM's own estimates show that between 2009 and 2015 oil and gas companies wasted more than 462 billion cubic feet of natural gas, enough gas to supply more than 6.2 million households—or every household in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming—for one year.
As a result of BLM's actions eliminating those protections, oil and gas companies will now be allowed to vent, leak or flare $824 million worth of publicly owned natural gas into the air over the next decade. State, local and tribal taxpayers will lose millions of dollars of royalty payments.
"Secretary Zinke is rolling back a rule that required greater capture of natural gas and that the industry pay a royalty on gas that is vented to the atmosphere or otherwise wasted," said Rodger Steen, chair of the Western Organization of Resource Councils' oil and gas campaign team. "Requiring royalty payment on wasted gas is one important reason why the 2016 rule is needed, but there are others. As the increasing scarcity of basic resources like clean water and old forests reminds us, we need to use our finite resources wisely and not waste them."
Moreover, according to BLM's own estimates, rescinding the Waste Prevention Rule will also result in the emissions of 180,000 tons of methane—a greenhouse gas 87 times more powerful than carbon dioxide—every year. BLM's action also endangers communities' health by exposing them to dangerous smog-forming and carcinogenic air pollutants.
"The illogical and impulsive way in which the Interior Department conducted this completely unnecessary revision process once again showcases this administration's complete disregard for the American public and existing environmental protections," said Bruce Pendery, litigation and energy policy specialist at The Wilderness Society. "And while the administration will continue to proceed as if these policies don't exist, the fact remains that what they are doing is illegal and we will fight it."
The conservation and tribal citizen groups filed their lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District California, which has already struck down BLM's two prior attempts to roll back the Waste Prevention Rule. Earthjustice represents Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, and Western Organization of Resource Councils in the lawsuit.
"The federal government is not living up to its trust responsibility to tribal members of the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota who are living every day with toxic air pollution, constant noise and flares lighting up the skies of our homeland," said Lisa DeVille, president of the Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights.
"The Trump administration has been relentless in its efforts to appease corporate polluters and roll back critical clean air standards," said Kelly Martin, director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign. "Today we continue the fight in court to hold them accountable and protect our health, climate and communities from dangerous methane pollution."
Court Orders Trump Administration to Enforce Obama-Era Methane Rule https://t.co/F2Tdnnfi7k @NRDC @UCSUSA… https://t.co/5eyGWBRdKs— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1519411016.0
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.