It’s been said we are a nation of laws.
In the Trump era, resistance does not only come from protesters marching with signs and slogans. It also comes from the courts.
On Wednesday, San Francisco federal judge Elizabeth Laporte ordered the Interior Department to reinstate a regulation former President Barack Obama instituted to restrict harmful methane emissions from oil and gas production on federal lands.
The Interior Department argued the regulation was too burdensome, and sought to delay its implementation until 2019. Earlier this year, the department tried to postpone a part of the rule slated to take effect next year.
But Judge Laporte ordered the entire rule reinstated immediately after she felt the department failed to provide a “reasoned explanation” for the changes, and had not presented details why an earlier Obama administration analysis was considered faulty.
The emissions rule was finalized last November. It compels energy companies to capture methane “flared,” or burned off, at drilling sites on public lands during production because of its deleterious environmental effects.
Methane is a leading contributor to climate change. It is more potent than carbon dioxide but does not remain in the air as long.
Around $330 million of it, enough to power about five million homes, leaks or is intentionally released on federal lands per year.
Michael Saul, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups that challenged the Trump administration along with California and New Mexico, said:
“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. The methane rule puts modest constraints on a dirty practice that endangers public health and wastes billions of taxpayer dollars. [Trump and Interior Secretrary Ryan Zinke] are not above the law, and the court has made it clear they have to stop putting polluters above the people they were sworn to protect.”
Jenny Kordick, energy policy expert for The Wilderness Society, said eliminating the methane rule:
“Makes no sense and is yet another example of the lengths this administration will go to sell out our public lands.”
Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) said:
“This rule is simply good policy good for taxpayers, good for the economy, and good for the environment.”
The Obama-era rule, Udall said, provides important revenue for public education and other services to states like New Mexico.
Prior to the rule, oil and gas wells operating on public lands in New Mexico wasted about $100 million in taxpayer-owned natural gas.
According to Sen. Udall, the rule has helped reduce dangerous air pollution across the west, including a Delaware-sized methane cloud over New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, and Colorado’s Four Corners region.
Image credit: america.aljazeera.com