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NM's Udall Leads Challenge to Trump Methane Rule Rollback

New Mexico is estimated to lose nearly $43 million a year in royalty revenues from methane wasted through leaks, venting and flaring on public lands. (riograndesierraclub.org)
New Mexico is estimated to lose nearly $43 million a year in royalty revenues from methane wasted through leaks, venting and flaring on public lands. (riograndesierraclub.org)
June 21, 2019

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – More than 50 members of Congress have signed on to legal documents arguing that a proposed rollback of methane rules by the U.S. Interior Department violates federal law.

An amicus brief filed yesterday by lawmakers says eliminating the 2016 Methane and Waste Prevention rule not only wastes natural gas resources, but also harms the public interest. Speaking at a news conference, New Mexico Democratic Senator Tom Udall noted that public lands belong to the people – not private corporations.

"And until the 2016 Methane Waste Prevention rule was put in place, oil and gas companies were venting and flaring methane into the atmosphere with reckless abandon," said Udall.

The Bureau of Land Management says the Obama-era regulations on oil and gas companies to modernize equipment and reduce methane leaks are not in line with the Trump administration's "energy dominance" goal.

More than 50 U.S. lawmakers joined Udall in filing the legal challenge to the Interior Department's methane rollback, which is estimated to annually waste $330 million worth of natural gas on public and Tribal lands.

The BLM's own analysis has verified lawmakers concerns. The agency found that eliminating the rule will result in more than $1 billion dollars in wasted natural gas nationwide. Camilla Feibelman, director of the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, says without the 2016 rule the health of people living near oil and gas extraction sites also will suffer.

"Leaving our people exposed to the impacts of global climate change, but also the on-the-ground effects of increased smog, and the impact on the respiratory health of our kids," says Feibelman.

The amicus brief was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. It argues that the Interior Department's revised rule violates the 1920 Mineral Leasing Act by authorizing practices known to "waste taxpayer-owned resources and harm the public interest."

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM