Court Strikes Down Latest Trump Administration Attempt to Delay Oil and Gas Protections

Aaron Mintzes's avatar
By Aaron Mintzes

October 10, 2017


Last week, a federal judge in California struck down the Trump Administration’s stay of a rule that saves taxpayer money, prevents waste of our minerals, cleans the air, and protects the climate.

Earthworks, represented by our friends with the Western Environmental Law Center, joined a coalition of conservation organizations and the states of California and New Mexico, bringing this challenge.

The BLM Methane Rule

On January 17, 2017, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) finalized the Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation Rule (BLM methane rule). The first such update in more than three decades, the rule represents a classic win-win-win. The industry captures more gas they sell to market, the Government receives more revenue, and the public enjoys cleaner air.

A Stunning Rebuke

One of the Administration’s first orders of business was to delay or repeal as many environmental, public health, and taxpayer protections as possible.  So far, the executive branch has a mixed record of success, though, they have managed to inspire resistance.  This is the third time a court has blocked the Trump Administration from unlawfully delaying an oil and gas regulation. This pattern reveals either sloppy work, or worse, an Administration not troubled by flouting the law. 

This same judge, just weeks ago, invalidated the Interior Department’s stay of their Federal and Indian Oil and Gas and Coal Valuation rule (Royalty Valuation Rule)- another measure providing a fair return for public minerals. And, in a separate ruling last July, the DC Circuit decided the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) illegally stayed their methane rule. Each are victories for the environment, public health, taxpayers, and the rule of law.

You Gotta Follow the Rules

Seemingly, few people running our government know how it works. The Administrative Procedures Act (APA) has rules for making rules. And othes for un-making them. This way, the public knows what our Government does and why it does it.  Part of the problem is many career agency officials, experienced with rulemaking procedures, have left public service. Others, find themselves isolated from their political appointee bosses sitting inside a soundproof booth

On to the Next One

This is neither the first nor the last attack on the BLM Methane Rule. In May, the Senate narrowly voted down an attempt that would have permanently repealed this rule. When that attempt failed, BLM stayed the rule anyway, leading to this litigation. And even though that stay has now failed, BLM just proposed another. This time for two years. We expect another proposed stay for the EPA methane rule in a couple of months.

This amateurish stumbling throughout the rollback effort must cause some frustration within the oil and gas industry. They tend to value regulatory certainty above the substance of the rules themselves. Compliance comes more easily when we know what the rules are. For now, the BLM and EPA methane rules are the law of the land. Ending these protections or shaking up the rules benefits no one. If the President wants to help his friends in the oil and gas industry, following the law would be a good start.  

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Tagged with: trump adminstration, epa methane, blm methane, administrative procedures act

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