A Bureau of Land Management rule intended to reduce the waste of methane continues to spark confusion and controversy.
On Wednesday, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that an action this summer by the Trump administration to indefinitely suspend key parts of the methane rule was “arbitrary and capricious” and that the rule had to be reinstated in its entirety. However, that order does not affect another action taken by the BLM in recent days to take public comments on a new proposal to delay implementation of the rule for one year. The Waste Prevention Rule was adopted by the Obama administration in 2016. It requires energy companies to stop flaring, leaking, or venting the natural gas that can be a byproduct of oil-drilling. Instead, companies would have to capture the potent greenhouse gas and pay royalties on it. The U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates the natural gas leaked or wasted between 2009 and 2015 could have supplied more than 6 million households for a year. Two trade associations for the energy industry had asked for this summer’s suspension of parts of the rule. But the states of California and New Mexico, along with 17 conservation and tribal groups, sued the BLM over the suspension, saying the agency had violated administrative procedures. On Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth LaPorte ruled in favor of the environmental groups, leaving the entire rule in effect for now.