Attorney General Becerra: California and New Mexico File Opposition to Trump Administration’s Attempt to Repeal Rule That Prevents Dangerous Waste of Natural Gas
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed their strong opposition to yet another Trump Administration attempt to dismantle the Waste Prevention Rule, which requires oil and natural gas producers to take cost-effective measures to cut wasteful leakage of methane on federal and tribal lands. In a comment letter addressed to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Attorneys General Becerra and Balderas underscored that repealing the Rule would be arbitrary and capricious, as well as contrary to BLM’s statutory mandate to ensure the safe and responsible development of oil and gas resources on public lands.
“The courts have rejected the Trump Administration’s illegal attempts to delay and suspend the Waste Prevention Rule. Now, President Trump and his officials are attempting to repeal it. Attorney General Balderas and I won’t sit on the sidelines and subscribe to this blatant violation of our laws,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The Waste Prevention Rule is a commonsense measure that both protects our children and the air they breathe, and our planet. We will do everything in our power to ensure that it is implemented. Even the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate voted to keep this important Rule in place.”
“President Trump’s proposed rescission of the carefully crafted Waste Prevention Rule would not only cause pollution and needless waste of resources, according to BLM’s own calculations it would result in a loss of millions of dollars to New Mexican schoolchildren,” said Attorney General Balderas. “I will continue to fight these efforts to circumvent the rule of law and give sweetheart deals to special interests.”
The Waste Prevention Rule was finalized by BLM on November 18, 2016, and went into effect on January 17, 2017. It assesses royalties on gas that operators allow to escape into the atmosphere and applies new standards that prohibit venting, require increased inspections to prevent leaks, and phase out routine flaring. BLM estimated that the Rule would have substantial annual benefits, including eliminating 175,000 tons of methane emissions (the same 20-year climate impact as 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. Half of these royalties, per federal law, would be allocated to states.
The Rule has been attacked by the Trump Administration on previous occasions:
- On June 15, 2017, the Trump Administration issued a notice delaying key requirements of the Waste Prevention Rule. Attorneys General Becerra and Balderas filed a lawsuit against this action on July 5, 2017. On October 4, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled in favor of the two state Attorneys General, ordering the Administration to immediately implement the Rule.
- On December 8, 2017, the Trump Administration finalized a notice to suspend key requirements of the Rule after an abbreviated public comment process. Attorneys General Becerra and Balderas filed another lawsuit on December 19, 2017, challenging this suspension and moved for a preliminary injunction. On February 22, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted the injunction, finding that the Administration had failed to offer any reasoned explanation for its action, putting the Rule back into effect.
Additionally, since December 2016, California and New Mexico have been defending the Waste Prevention Rule from legal challenges brought in U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming by industry groups and the States of Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, and Texas. On April 4, 2018, the Wyoming court blocked the implementation of several provisions of the Rule that carried January 17, 2018 compliance deadlines. Attorneys General Becerra and Balderas have appealed that order to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Notably, on May 10, 2017, the Republican-led U.S. Senate voted against repealing the Waste Prevention Rule, despite President Trump’s desire to kill it.
A copy of the comment letter submitted by Attorneys General Becerra and Balderas is attached to the electronic version of this release at oag.ca.gov/news.