Western Energy Alliance and IPAA Achieve Victory Overturning the BLM Obama Methane Rule

Western Energy Alliance and IPAA Achieve Victory Overturning the BLM Obama Methane Rule

DENVER – Western Energy Alliance and the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) today achieved an important victory in the U.S. District Court for Wyoming, along with the states of Montana, North Dakota, Texas and Wyoming. Judge Scott Skavdahl’s decision vacated the 2016 waste prevention rule, an overreaching methane regulation finalized in the waning days of the Obama Administration that unlawfully granted air quality authority to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

When the rule was originally finalized in November 2016 at the end of President Barack Obama’s administration, the Alliance and IPAA along with the states challenged it in the Wyoming court. The Trump Administration finalized a new rule in 2018 that corrected the unlawful aspects of the original. When environmental groups, California and New Mexico obtained a court ruling overturning the 2018 rule from the Northern District of California, our case in Wyoming was restarted. Today’s ruling by Judge Scott Skavdahl ends the seesawing litigation between the two courts.

“We are overjoyed that an overreaching regulation has been overturned today. Judge Skavdahl agreed with us that BLM does not have the authority to regulate air quality,” said Kathleen Sgamma, president of Western Energy Alliance. “BLM can regulate waste of methane, but not put in place air quality controls and regulate existing sources. The Clean Air Act gives that authority to EPA and the states. Hopefully, we can quit playing boomerang between the two courts and get back to sensible regulation within BLM’s purview. Meanwhile, companies have continued a decades-long trend of reducing methane emissions by nearly 23% since 1990 even as natural gas production has increased more than 50%.”

“IPAA is pleased with Judge Skavdahl’s ruling to vacate the Obama-Era Waste Prevention Rule that wildly overstepped the authority given to the Department of the Interior,” said Barry Russell, IPAA President and CEO. “This rule, which aimed to regulate venting and flaring, was an attempt to create yet another regulatory hurdle for American oil and natural gas producers operating on federal lands. We are pleased to see Skavdahl’s sensible approach and rightfully see this as a win for producers.”

Regulatory and Litigation Timeline: 

  • In November 2016, the Obama Administration issued the final Waste Prevention Rule, and it went into effect January 17, 2017, three days before Donald Trump became president. The Alliance and IPAA immediately challenged the rule in the District Court of Wyoming. That challenge was joined by the states of Montana, North Dakota, Texas and Wyoming.
  • In September 2018, finalized a revision rule that focused on BLM’s authority to regulate waste under the Mineral Leasing Act and removed the provisions of the 2016 rule that were literally copied and pasted from EPA Clean Air Act regulation. Environmental groups and the states of California and New Mexico challenged the Trump rule in the Northern District of California.
  • In July 2020, the California court overturned the Trump revision rule, ordering the 2016 rule to go into effect on October 13, 2020. The Alliance and IPAA have joined the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the government in appealing that ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court.
  • In response, the Alliance, IPAA and the four states restarted the case against the 2016 rule in Wyoming, which had been put on hold when the 2018 revision rule was finalized. With today’s ruling, the 2016 rule has been overturned.

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