A coalition of 16 conservation and watchdog groups has filed suit in U.S. District Court against the Interior Department and Bureau of Land Management over an effort to delay implementing a rule regulating methane.
The rule, adopted under the Obama administration, requires energy companies to capture and sell the natural gas that is often a byproduct of drilling for other fuels. Traditionally, operators have vented or burned the methane, but the rule would require them to capture 85 percent of it beginning this January. When it adopted the rule, the BLM said it would reduce waste, slash emissions of a potent greenhouse gas, and bring in millions more dollars in royalties annually. But the Trump administration opposes the rule. It tried but failed to get Congress to overturn it. Two attempts to rescind it administratively also failed in court. In December, the BLM proposed an amendment that would delay the rule by one year while it considers revising or rescinding it. The agency estimated the delay would mean an additional 175,000 tons of methane emissions, but issued a finding of no significant impact, saying those emissions would mostly occur in sparsely populated areas. The environmental coalition argues that the BLM did not allow for adequate public comment on the amendment. In a separate action, the attorneys general of New Mexico and California are also challenging the delay.