We're Suing Trump Again for Delaying Protections Against Methane
Oil and gas operations near residential areas in Colorado. Chris Schneider / Earthjustice
By Jessica A. Knoblauch
Delays of critical environmental protections have become a familiar tactic from federal agencies, as the Trump administration takes marching orders from polluting industries that want to unravel Obama-era regulations.
The courts, however, have proven to be a powerful tool in pushing back on Trump's delay tactics. Earlier this month, a federal appeals court blocked Trump's U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from delaying new rules on methane, a potent greenhouse gas 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide that happens to be the primary component of natural gas. Monday's lawsuit targets a similar request to delay methane regulations, this time by the BLM.
"No matter how badly the Trump administration wants to dismantle important protections for our air and climate adopted during the Obama administration, they must follow the law," said Earthjustice attorney Joel Minor, who is working on the EPA and BLM methane cases. "They're taking shortcuts in each case. But the courts are going to hold them accountable."
The EPA and BLM methane rules both require oil and gas companies to capture their methane emissions. In May 2016, the EPA put federal safeguards in place to limit the amount of methane pollution from new and modified sources in the oil and gas industry. Months later, the BLM finalized a waste prevention rule that requires oil and gas companies to reduce venting, flaring and leaks from both new and existing operations on public and tribal lands. Together these crucial protections reduce smog, air toxics and climate pollution—protecting public health and future generations.
The new rules also could bring millions of dollars into the public coffers as drilling companies must pay royalties when they extract gas from public lands and burn methane. Without the rules, oil and gas companies have been venting or flaring more than 15,000 metric tons of methane from publicly-owned oil and gas leases into the air each year—essentially tossing taxpayer money into the air. The rule will prevent oil and gas companies operating on federal and tribal lands from wasting 41 billion cubic feet of natural gas each year through leaks, venting and flaring—enough to power supply 740,000 households for a year.
Despite widespread support for these commonsense rules, including from states like California and New Mexico, the new administration is now attempting to delay and rescind them. In January, the BLM's methane rule went into effect after Earthjustice successfully defeated attempts by several states and oil and gas industry groups tried to overturn it in court. In May, the same industry groups tasted failure again after the Senate rejected attempts to overturn the rule using an anti-democratic ploy known as the Congressional Review Act. In the July ruling on the EPA rule, a federal appeals court called the administration's actions to delay the rule "unreasonable," "arbitrary" and "capricious."
Undeterred—and prodded by the fossil fuel industry during talks with Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke in May—the Trump administration is taking one more shot at delaying methane regulations. This time, it is using delay—the same tactic it used unsuccessfully with the EPA rule—for the BLM rule.
We're not so sure about the efficacy of reusing a losing strategy. Regardless, Earthjustice will be fighting the administration's efforts in court, alongside a broad coalition of tribal and environmental groups, to uphold this commonsense measure. Stay tuned.
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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