Conservation groups challenge suspension of Obama ruling aimed at easing oil, gas pollution

Conservation groups challenge suspension of Obama ruling aimed at easing oil, gas pollution

Conservation groups on Friday filed a motion in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit seeking to halt the suspension of the Bureau of Land Management’s Waste Prevention Rule.

A Wyoming federal court suspended the federal Obama-era rule this month after oil and gas firms, and several states, sued to suspend the ruling. The rule aims to curb venting and flaring from oil and gas industry infrastructure on public and tribal lands.

“We are asking the appellate court to put these common-sense rules back in place to protect taxpayers and the health of people living day in and day out with the flares and air pollution caused by wasteful drilling practices,” said Robin Cooley, an Earthjustice attorney, in a news release. “The District Court ignored settled legal principles and considered only industry’s interests and not those of the American people.”

The Waste Prevention Rule was enacted in 2016 after years of deliberation, more than 300,000 written comments overwhelmingly in support of the rule, and public hearings in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado and North Dakota, according to the news release.

Suspension of the ruling will lead to an increase in air pollution, primarily through leaking methane, which is a contributor to climate change, Earthjustice said.

The nonprofit represented the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Western Organization of Resource Councils and The Wilderness Society in Friday’s motion.

Meanwhile, the Interior Department is rewriting the rule and accepting comments before finalizing its rewrite this summer, according to The Associated Press.

This month, Judge Scott Skavdahl said enforcing the earlier rule would provide “minimal public benefit” while imposing potentially significant costs on industry.

The November 2016 rule, in the waning days of the Obama administration, forced energy companies to capture methane gas burned off or wasted at drilling sites on public lands.

“Sadly, and frustratingly, this case is symbolic of the dysfunction in the current state of administrative law,” Skavdahl wrote in an 11-page opinion released April 4. “Unfortunately, it is not the first time this dysfunction has frustrated the administrative review process in this court.”

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