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Groups Sue Trump Administration Over Waste-Prevention Rule Rollback

There are more than 1,400 oil and gas wells located on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota. (Tim Evanson/Flickr)
There are more than 1,400 oil and gas wells located on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota. (Tim Evanson/Flickr)
October 2, 2018

BISMARCK, N.D. — A coalition of groups, including members of the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota, are suing the Trump administration for its decision to rescind the methane-waste prevention rule on oil and gas operations.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management recently rolled back protections in the waste-prevention rule, which was put in place to reduce flaring and venting of the potent greenhouse gas on federal and tribal lands. Without this regulation, the groups suing say taxpayers could lose $80 million in royalties over the next decade.

Robin Cooley is an attorney with Earthjustice, which is representing the groups.

"The rule defines waste so that BLM is looking only at an oil and gas operator's profits and completely ignoring its legal obligations to protect the public welfare when leasing publicly and tribally owned minerals,” Cooley said.

The Trump administration says the 2016 rule put in place by the Obama administration was a burden on small drilling companies. Cooley said the administration has ignored the environmental impacts on communities living on the front lines of oil and gas development such as the Fort Berthold Reservation.

There are more than 1,400 oil and gas wells on the reservation. Lisa DeVille, president of the Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights, lives on the reservation within a half mile of a well. She said the well has had a real impact on her health as well as that of her husband.

"Since the start of extraction, we have experienced respiratory illnesses and what our physician calls the Bakken cough,” DeVille said. “My husband and I suffered for weeks from uncontrollable coughing and congestion that limited the free flow of air to our lungs. Never in our lives have we had an illness last this long."

California and New Mexico also have filed a lawsuit against the Interior Department over rolling back the waste-prevention rule.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND