Environmentalists are suing after President Donald Trump’s administration stayed an Obama-era rule mandating oil and gas companies contain methane waste rather than burn it off, The Associated Press reported.
The Environmental Defense Fund led a coalition of environmental groups that appealed the Department of the Interior (DOI) stay April 5. The rule, adopted in the Obama administration’s final months, prevents oil and gas wells dug on federal lands from disposing of methane, a potent greenhouse gas emitted from oil production, through flaring, or burning it before it enters the atmosphere.
After Congress and the DOI’s failed attempts to repeal the rule, the department proposed revising the policy in February to take out the most expensive and contested parts. Western lawmakers praised the rule and said it was duplicative and imposed to stifle the oil industry.
“In order to achieve energy dominance through responsible energy production, we need smart regulations not punitive regulations,” DOI Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Joe Balash said in a statement announcing the revision “We believe this proposed rule strikes that balance and will allow job growth in rural America.”
Requiring companies to abide by the methane rule “makes little sense” considering the legal fight between environmentalists and the federal government since efforts to repeal the rule began, Wyoming federal Judge Scott Skavdahl, who handled the appeal, said.
Imposing the rule would cost the oil industry about $279 million, “the oil and gas industry” said. The rule would stop 180,000 tons of methane from entering the atmosphere annually, the Bureau of Land Management estimated, according to The New York Times.
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