Interior Department ordered to reinstate Obama-era methane emissions rule
WASHINGTON – Rebuffing the Trump administration, a federal judge on Wednesday ordered the Interior Department to reinstate an Obama-era regulation aimed at restricting harmful methane emissions from oil and gas production on federal lands.
The order by a judge in San Francisco came as the Interior Department moved to delay the rule until 2019, saying it was too burdensome to industry. The action followed an earlier effort by Interior to postpone part of the rule set to to take effect next year.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Laporte of the Northern District of California said Interior had failed to give a “reasoned explanation” for the changes and had not offered details why an earlier analysis by the Obama administration was faulty. She ordered the entire rule reinstated immediately.
The rule, finalized last November, forces energy companies to capture methane that’s burnt off or “flared” at drilling sites on public lands during production because it pollutes the environment. An estimated $330 million a year in methane is wasted through leaks or intentional releases on federal lands, enough to power about 5 million homes a year.
Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a leading contributor to global warming. It is far more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide but does not stay in the air as long.
“It’s a good thing the courts are protecting Americans from oil and gas industry pollution, because the Trump administration has completely abdicated that responsibility,” said Michael Saul, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups that challenged the Trump rule along with California and New Mexico.
In this photo taken April 26, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks at the Interior Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
“The methane rule puts modest constraints on a dirty practice that endangers public health and wastes billions of taxpayer […]