SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration and the U.S. Department of the Interior this week for delaying implementation of the Waste Prevention Rule, which requires oil and natural gas producers to significantly cut wasteful leakage of methane on federal lands.
This is at least the third illegal attempt by the Trump Administration to postpone an environmental rule that has already taken effect, and that is designed to protect the air Californians breathe and ensure the state can continue being a leader in fighting climate change, according to a news release from Becerra’s office.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas joined Attorney General Becerra in filing the lawsuit.
The Waste Prevention Rule assesses royalties on gas that operators allow to escape into the atmosphere and applies new standards that prohibit venting, phase-out routine flaring and require increased inspections to prevent leaks.
“President Trump should put the health of the American people over the profits of private companies,” Becerra said. “This is a commonsense rule that both helps our children breathe cleaner air and protects our planet. It should be implemented as is legally required. We refuse to let blatant violations of the law go unchallenged.”
Last month, the Republican-led U.S. Senate voted against repealing the Waste Prevention Rule, despite President Trump’s desire to kill it.
The Waste Prevention Rule was finalized by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management on November 18, 2016, and went into effect on January 17, 2017.
Nearly six months after the rule had gone into effect, BLM — under the direction of the Trump Administration — issued a notice “postponing” the rule indefinitely.
To justify the delay, BLM invoked Section 705 of the Administrative Procedure Act, which allows an agency to “postpone the effective date of action taken by it, pending judicial review.” However, BLM’s action is unlawful because Section 705 does not apply to rules that have already gone into effect.
The California Attorney General’s Office and the New Mexico Attorney General’s office have already been working to defend the Waste Prevention Rule from legal challenges brought in federal district court in Wyoming.
BLM estimated that the Waste Prevention Rule would have substantial annual benefits, including the production of up to 41 billion cubic feet of natural gas and the generation of $3 million to $14 million in additional royalties. Half of these royalties, per federal law, would be allocated to states. Moreover, the Waste Prevention Rule would cut annual emissions of hazardous air pollutants by 250,000–267,000 tons and methane emissions by 175,000-180,000 tons.