Cantwell joins 50 Lawmakers in Challenging Trump Rollback of Methane Waste Prevention Rule

Amicus brief makes case that Interior’s rollback violates federal law by allowing oil and gas industry to release polluting methane emissions, harming the public interest; Every year, an estimated $330 million of natural gas is wasted by the oil and gas industry on public and Tribal lands

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, along with 50 lawmakers from the Senate and House of Representatives, filed an amicus brief challenging the Trump Interior Department’s decision to revise and effectively reverse the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) 2016 Methane and Waste Prevention Rule. 

“The Trump administration has ignored Congressional intent by unlawfully overturning the common-sense 2016 methane rule," said Senator Cantwell. "If this ill-advised scheme is allowed to move forward, not only will oil and gas companies be allowed to waste billions of dollars worth of publicly owned resources, we will eventually pay even more due to the unnecessary release of one of the most dangerous greenhouse gases into our atmosphere.” 

The amicus brief, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, challenges the Trump administration’s gutting of the Methane and Waste Prevention Rule. Under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, the government is required to prevent unnecessary waste of oil and gas resources on federal and Tribal lands. In the brief, the lawmakers argue that Interior’s revised rule violates the Mineral Leasing Act by authorizing practices known to waste taxpayer-owned resources and harm the public interest. 

The 2016 methane waste prevention rule was designed to limit leaking, venting, and flaring from natural gas operations on federal and Tribal lands – wasteful practices that unnecessarily release methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and other dangerous pollutants into the air and waste hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer-owned resources every year. The Trump administration, however, gutted this common-sense rule and replaced it with a rule that allows companies to waste public resources and damage to the environment. Every year, an estimated $330 million of natural gas is wasted by the oil and gas industry from operations on public and Tribal lands. 

In 2018, the BLM revised the 2016 rule with a rule entitled Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties and Resource Conservation; Rescission or Revision of Certain Requirements. The revised rule removed waste minimization plans, well drilling and completion requirements, pneumatic controller and diaphragm pump requirements, storage vessels requirements, and leak detection and repair requirements from the 2016 rule. The gas-capture requirement was modified to allow BLM to defer to state or Tribal regulations in determining when the flaring of associated gas from oil wells will be royalty-free. Modifications were also made to the downhole well maintenance and liquids unloading requirements and to the measuring and reporting volumes of gas vented and flared.

Cantwell has long fought to protect and preserve BLM’s methane waste prevention rule and ensure taxpayers get a fair deal. In 2017, Cantwell led a bipartisan Senate coalition that successfully blocked an effort to overturn the Obama-era rule that cracked down on methane waste. In addition, Cantwell has fought for the full implementation of the methane waste prevention rule. 

A copy of the full amicus brief can be found HERE.