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Federal Court Rejects Challenge to BLM Standards on Natural Gas Waste

Victory: Decision to reject industry and states’ motion for a preliminary injunctions is a big win for taxpayers and our environment
As the sun sets on another California day, a flare burns in an oil field near Bakersfield, CA.

A flare burns in a California oil field.

Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice
January 17, 2017
Casper, WY —

U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl yesterday refused to delay Bureau of Land Management standards requiring oil and gas companies to prevent natural gas waste from drilling operations on public lands.

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The updated standards call for oil and gas companies to capture natural gas from drilling operations on public lands instead of flaring, leaking or venting it into the atmosphere. Industry groups filed suit to block the standards, and were joined by Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota. Industry and states’ first attempt was to file a motion asking for a preliminary injunction. Yesterday, the court denied it.

In support of this decision Robin Cooley, the Earthjustice attorney who argued the case in front of the federal court, issued the following statement:

“The court’s decision is a win for taxpayers and our environment.

“The Bureau estimates that between 2009 and 2014, oil and gas companies wasted enough of the nation’s natural gas to power 5.1 million homes for a year. States, tribes and the federal government are missing out on millions of dollars of royalty payments when companies burn, vent or leak publicly-owned gas into the atmosphere. 

“These standards require companies to take common-sense steps to curb this waste, like monitoring and fixing leaking equipment. We applaud this decision by the federal court.”

The groups defending the common-sense standards are the Wyoming Outdoor Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Citizens for a Healthy Community, Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, Earthworks, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Montana Environmental Information Center, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, Western Organization of Resource Councils, Wilderness Workshop and WildEarth Guardians. The states of New Mexico and California have also joined the lawsuit to defend BLM’s cost-effective standards.

Read the legal document.