Once again, the Trump Administration is running a full-frontal assault on American public lands, the public health, and the environment. As announced yesterday, Department of the Interior Secretary Zinke’s latest gift to the oil and gas industry is a proposal that seeks to remove most of the waste-preventing requirements of the BLM’s 2016 Methane Waste Rule. The 2016 Rule was designed to curb wasteful and dangerous venting and flaring on public lands of natural gas, of which the largest component is methane—a powerful greenhouse gas that is a major contributor to climate change and is also a public resource that is a significant revenue source for the U.S. Treasury.
Yesterday’s announcement follows months of BLM’s repeated attempts to delay portions of the 2016 Rule through other processes. Congress’ attempt to use the Congressional Review Act last May to repeal the 2016 Rule was defeated in the U.S. Senate. Then, last summer BLM tried to push through an administrative delay of portions of the 2016 Rule— without taking public comment—an attempt that was ultimately found unlawful by a Federal court. BLM’s most recent tactic was to amend the 2016 Rule by changing the compliance deadlines of many of the 2016 Rule’s provisions and is currently being challenged in Federal court.
“The pattern of this Administration attempting to roll back protections of our public lands and the public’s health in favor of easing oversight of the oil and gas industry is now nauseatingly familiar,” said Sarah Smith, Campaign Director for Clean Air Task Force, an environmental NGO that works to address global climate change, and has been in the forefront of pressing for effective regulations to curb greenhouse gas emissions, particularly from the oil and gas industry and other major stationary sources.
The next step in this regulatory process is a 60-day public comment period. “The American public won’t be strong-armed into accepting this disgraceful rule,” said Smith, “and they will let the Administration know it in no uncertain terms.”