Attorney General Becerra Announces Victory in Lawsuit Blocking Repeal of Rule that Stops Damaging, Wasteful Leakage of Natural Gas

Wednesday, July 15, 2020
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SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), and New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas prevailed today in their lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s attempt to repeal the Waste Prevention Rule, a commonsense measure to reduce the enormous waste of natural gas on public lands. The rule requires oil and natural gas producers to take cost-effective measures to cut the wasteful leakage of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, on federal and tribal lands. In California alone, there are approximately 600 producing oil and gas leases – and 7,900 usable oil and gas wells – across more than 200,000 acres of federal land. Today’s decision by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California vacates the repeal effective 90 days from today and puts BLM on a path toward reinstatement of the Waste Prevention Rule. In the decision, the court ruled that the repeal violated the National Environmental Policy Act, was arbitrary and capricious, and contrary to the BLM’s statutory mandate to ensure the safe and responsible development of oil and gas on public lands.

“We applaud the court for slamming the door shut on yet another unlawful attempt by the Trump Administration to throw out the Waste Prevention Rule,” said Attorney General Becerra. “California’s communities should not have to breathe in toxic air so that special interests can save a few dollars. The Rule is a step in the right direction and is crucial to addressing the air pollution generated from California’s public lands.”

The Waste Prevention Rule was finalized by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on November 18, 2016, and went into effect on January 17, 2017. The Rule applies new standards that require increased inspections to prevent leaks, prohibit venting, and phase out routine flaring. It also assesses royalties on the gas that operators allow to escape into the atmosphere, half of which are allocated to states. The Rule has significant environmental benefits, including the elimination of 175,000 tons of methane emissions annually – the equivalent of over 3 million passenger vehicles driving for one year. It would also save and put to use 41 billion cubic feet of natural gas, enough to serve over 554,000 homes for a year and generate up to $14 million in additional royalties.

The victory today is the third unsuccessful attempt by the Trump Administration to weaken or repeal the Waste Prevention Rule. After Attorneys General Becerra and Balderas filed a lawsuit in July 2017 challenging a BLM notice delaying key requirements of the Waste Prevention Rule, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ordered the Trump Administration to immediately implement the rule. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California also granted an injunction preventing a notice to suspend key requirements after Attorneys General Becerra and Balderas and CARB filed a lawsuit challenging the notice in December 2017. The court found that the Trump Administration had failed to offer any reasoned explanation for its action, putting the Rule back into effect.

A copy of the Court's order can be found here.

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