Environmental Groups Appeal Wyoming Federal Court’s Decision to Overturn Vital Waste Management Protections

The Waste Prevention Rule is a common-sense rule protecting tribal and public lands from oil and gas waste


Siham Zniber, szniber@earthjustice.org

Jonathon Berman, jonathon.berman@sierraclub.org

Tony Iallonardo, tony_iallonardo@tws.org

Environmental groups filed an appeal today challenging a decision by a Wyoming federal district court to vacate the Bureau of Land Management’s Waste Prevention Rule. Enacted by the Obama administration in 2016, the Waste Prevention Rule compelled oil and gas companies to implement measures that would reduce flaring, venting, and leaking of methane. The Trump administration has repeatedly tried to repeal these protections to line the pockets of oil and gas executives. 

“Millions of Americans and diverse stakeholders weighed in when this commonsense standard was developed to protect our public lands and clean air, and the only people who wanted to see it weakened were fossil fuel industry executives and their cronies in the Trump administration,” said Kelly Martin, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign. “We are not giving up the fight to hold fossil fuel companies accountable and protect our communities from toxic pollution.”

“It is beyond dispute that methane is a harmful air and climate pollutant,” said Ben Tettlebaum, Senior Staff Attorney at The Wilderness Society. “For four years, we have defended the Waste Prevention Rule that puts in place common-sense measures to prevent needless methane waste from oil and gas wells on our public lands. It’s long past time to stop giving polluters a free pass and to let this rule start protecting public health and our shared natural resources.”

“Overturning the Waste Prevention Rule would have disastrous consequences for our public lands, tribal lands, and public health by allowing unfettered leaks of toxic air and climate pollution. It will perpetuate needless environmental harm on Indigenous communities. We won’t let oil and gas companies go unchecked,” said Robin Cooley, Earthjustice Staff Attorney. 

“It is a proven fact that methane traps heat radiation in our atmosphere, acting as a major contributor to climate change. To overturn the Waste Prevention Rule in essence tells oil and gas companies corporate profits are more important than the health of our environment and every living being on the planet,” said Kirk Panasuk, a Bainville, MT resident and member of the Western Organization of Resource Councils and Northern Plains Resource Council. “The oil and gas industry has the technology to reduce venting and flaring and to fix leaks. Why go back to antiquated practices? The Waste Prevention Rule is a common sense protection that benefits everyone. Climate change affects us all.”

“In the middle of a global pandemic and climate crisis, it’s clear we must put public health before polluter profits,” said Lissa Lynch, Staff Attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “That’s why we’re appealing this disappointing decision, which leaves Tribal and Western communities vulnerable to harmful oil and gas industry pollution.”

Gas waste from oil and gas development on tribal and public lands has been a pervasive problem in the U.S. Between 2009 and 2015, oil and gas companies vented, flared, and leaked an estimated 462 billion cubic feet of gas, including methane, a greenhouse gas 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide. These harmful pollutants are then released into our air, increasing health problems and exacerbating an already worsening climate crisis. 

The Waste Prevention Rule would prevent an estimated 175,000-180,000 tons of methane emissions each year, the equivalent of taking more than 900,000 vehicles permanently off the road. 

Background on the Waste Prevention Rule

The Waste Prevention Rule is the first update to BLM’s standards to reduce waste from oil and gas development on public and tribal lands in more than 35 years. The rule would require the oil and gas industry to use proven, low-cost technologies and practices to reduce venting and flaring and to fix leaks in infrastructure. It would also save taxpayers millions of dollars by requiring companies to pay royalties when they waste gas on public lands.

The Trump administration has repeatedly sought to rescind the rule. Earlier this year, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled against the Trump administration’s attempted rollback of the Waste Prevention Rule. 

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