Fifteen national, regional, tribal and local public health and environmental groups representing millions of Americans took legal steps last Friday to defend new standards that will reduce natural gas waste on public and tribal lands, protect public health, and guard against climate change.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) standards, finalized in November, will limit the amount of natural gas that oil and gas companies can leak, vent, or flare on the hundreds of millions of acres of federal and tribal lands in the U.S.—a problem that not only costs industry money in waste but costs taxpayers millions of dollars and results in harmful air pollution. Two oil and gas industry groups challenged the rule within 40 minutes of its release. The states of Montana, Wyoming,and North Dakota have also challenged the rule.
Late last Friday, 15 health and environmental groups filed a motion with the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming seeking to enter the case on the side of BLM and defend the standards.
“Lessees wasted over 462 billion cubic feet (“bcf”) of natural gas on public and tribal lands between 2009 and 2015—enough gas to serve about 6.2 million households for a year … As a result of this waste, States, Tribes and federal taxpayers are losing millions of dollars annually in royalty revenue that could be used to fund schools, health care, and infrastructure,” the groups said in their motion.
“Because wasted natural gas is comprised largely of methane — a powerful greenhouse gas — the Rule will also help to reduce the significant climate impacts of oil and gas development on federal and Indian leases … Additionally, the Rule will benefit communities suffering the impacts of such development by reducing emissions of smog-forming compounds and carcinogens, like benzene … BLM estimates that the Rule could have net benefits of up to $204 million per year.” (Motion page 1)
The groups petitioning to intervene in the case are the Wyoming Outdoor Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Citizens for a Healthy Community, Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, 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. Several of these parties are represented by counsel from Clean Air Task Force, Earthjustice, and the Western Environmental Law Center.