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Court Forces Feds To Implement Methane Gas Waste Rule

The Methane Waste Rule is designed to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and increase royalties for states and tribes. Caitlyn Cromwell)
The Methane Waste Rule is designed to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and increase royalties for states and tribes. Caitlyn Cromwell)
October 5, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY -- A federal judge ordered the Trump administration late Wednesday to implement an Obama-era rule that forces oil and gas companies to capture excess natural gas rather than burn it or vent it into the air.

The Feds had been stalling key provisions of the Methane Waste Rule, but the judge said it was illegal because they tried to do it without taking public comment. Meanwhile hours earlier, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke released for public comment a proposal that would suspend the rule entirely until January 2019.

Herman Farley, president of the Red Mesa Chapter government of the Navajo Nation, said the rule provides important health protections for his people and ought to be enforced.

"It's not proper and I don't think that's right,” Farley said. "My people live where they flare and release a lot of toxic gas that continuously contaminates the air quality within the area."

The administration first tried to get Congress to overturn the rule earlier this year but failed when three Senate Republicans joined Democrats who wanted to see the rule enforced. Conservation groups say companies leak or intentionally waste about $330 million a year worth of methane - enough to supply about 1.5 million homes.

The rule forces companies to install equipment to capture methane, which is then taxed and provides royalties to the state and tribes.

Farley traveled to Washington, D.C., this spring to speak with lawmakers, many of whom argued that the states should decide the issue, even though states have no jurisdiction on tribal lands.

"And if you give to the states, we have no agreement or any type of a treaty with the states and they'll just pull anything on us,” he said.

The American Lung Association has said methane gas emissions are a potent greenhouse gas that forms smog that can worsen the suffering of people with asthma.

The proposal to suspend the rule appears in the Federal Register today, which kicks-off a 30 day public comment period. You can put in your two cents at Regulations.gov.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - UT