Trump's Attempt to Repeal Obama's Methane Rule Just Suffered a Major Setback

Photo: AP
Photo: AP

The Bureau of Land Management knows what it wants the Methane Waste and Prevention Rule to look like, but the courts have something else in mind.


The U.S. District Court for the North District of California ruled Thursday that the federal government did not justify its decision to suspend and rewrite this rule, which was set to regulate emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Federal District Court Judge William Orrick issued a preliminary injunction, forcing the bureau to enforce the rule—for now. He deemed the suspension “arbitrary and capricious” in his ruling.

“[Plaintiffs] have shown irreparable injury caused by the waste of publicly owned natural gas, increased air pollution and associated health impacts, and exacerbated climate impacts,” Orrick’s ruling states.

Former President Barack Obama finalized this rule to reduce the amount of gas wasted during the flaring, venting, and leaks during oil and gas production, a few months before departing office. However, in June under President Donald Trump, the BLM moved to suspend parts of the rule that hadn’t already taken effect.

This court decision is the latest setback for the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back methane regulations on public and tribal lands. Already, this same court (under a different judge) has deemed the administration’s move illegal. That came after the Senate surprisingly voted in May against repealing this Obama-era rule under an act that would have made their decision difficult to reverse.

“The court’s decision to block [Interior] Secretary [Ryan] Zinke’s unlawful suspension ensures the Waste Prevention Rule remains in place, protecting tribes, ranchers, and families across the West,” said Peter Zalzal, an attorney with plaintiff Environmental Defense Fund, in a press release. “The protections restored by today’s decision will help to prevent the waste of natural gas, reduce harmful methane, smog-forming and toxic pollution, and ensure communities and tribes have royalty money that can be used to construct roads and schools.”

Other plaintiffs include the states of California and New Mexico, as well as other environmental groups. Their concerns include not just the increasing greenhouse gas emissions entering the atmosphere, but also the pollutants that accompany those emissions: benzene and hydrogen sulfide, among others. And who lives closest to these types of oil- and gas-producing facilities? People of color.


Yessenia Funes is climate editor at Atmos Magazine. She loves Earther forever.


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I don’t mean to be so snarky so here’s a preemptive apology.

What we could do is have US oil and gas majors form master limited partnerships (MLPs) with native American, latino, and African oil and gas corporations to exploit natural resources in and around areas where people of color live. The faces of the exploiter would be similar to those being exploited. People need role models who look like them. Then bypass federal and state government regulations and have EDF and other big green environmental regulations work arounders to work with these companies on a common sense privatized monitoring plan. EDF could team up with Google to collect data and then own it to sell to folks who may find it interesting. Included in this privatized effort would be many environmental justice folks to add public relations.

Nothing could be more latinx than Mexico’s semi nationalized and soon to be privatized oil and gas giant, Pemex. Or Venezuela’s, PDVSA, doing business as (DBA) CITGO in the US. Or Brazil’s Petrobras, who is presently in an imbroglio of its own. Or Colombia’s Ecopetrol. It’s not like we want the US to follow those companies environmental standard operating procedures. We have a little tighter corruption laws than many latin American countries. Not much. And for Christ sakes, it’s not like CITGO Lemont refinery and its Stickney depot down the street from me cares what color the folks are living around its facilities.

Oh, and of course the MLPs setup in African countries with familiar faces fronting the show in the homelands. We could have an African strongman with family wealth sitting in Switzerland running US oil and gas domestic works, if that would be better.

The thing about upstream oil and gas regulation is that there is hardly any regulation to begin with. Obama was trying to play King Solomon and split the baby. He needed the fracking revolution to pull us out of the recession. Upstream is where the wells and gathering is at. EDF has been trying to help oil and gas make sure regulations stay as toothless as possible from wellheads to refineries. That’s EDF’s “third way” way of making sure corporations don’t have to worry about collecting too much of the off gases at the well heads without coming off as total dicks. Also, oil and gas kind of fucked over EDF by working with them more closely during Obama and less closely under Trump. Everybody needs a useful idiot sometimes.