A United States court issued a temporary block of the attempt by the Trump administration to delay or end an Obama-era rule that was put in place in order to prevent oil and gas leaks during production. According to court documents, this is the fourth time either Congress or the courts have upheld the rule’s implementation.
Reuters reports that in the late Thursday decision, Judge William Orrick of the District Court for the District of Northern California, granted the states of California and New Mexico a preliminary injunction against the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), blocking a November action that tried to delay enforcement of the Obama-era rule for one year.
“The BLM’s reasoning behind the Suspension Rule is untethered to evidence contradicting the reasons for implementing the Waste Prevention Rule, and so plaintiffs are likely to prevail on the merits,” Orrick, who was appointed to the bench by former President Barack Obama, wrote in the ruling. “They have shown irreparable injury caused by the waste of publicly owned natural gas, increased air pollution and associated health impacts, and exacerbated climate impacts,” he went on to say.
The lawsuit was brought by Democratic states and environmental groups. The Obama rule at issue in the Thursday ruling was written in 2016. It required oil and gas drillers on federal and tribal land to take numerous steps to limit emissions of methane, which is the main component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas. It applied both to full releases of the gas and to flaring, the process of burning gas as it comes out of the well.
The Environmental Defense Fund, which is the leading advocacy groups, suing the administration over the issue, said the move leaves current regulations under the Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation Rule in place.
”The protections restored by today’s decision will help to prevent the waste of natural gas, reduce harmful methane, smog-forming and toxic pollution, and ensure communities and tribes have royalty money that can be used to construct roads and schools,” the group’s lead attorney, Peter Zalzal, said.