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Senate Democrats Urge Trump to Reverse Course on BLM, EPA Methane Rules

A group of 27 Senate Democrats has urged President Trump to reverse course and allow methane emissions regulations promulgated by the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take effect.

In a four-page letter to Trump dated Monday, the senators called the BLM and EPA rules "commonsense, cost effective requirements that direct the oil and gas industry to find and fix leaks, use up-to-date readily available equipment, and prevent waste of a natural resource -- saving taxpayers money while also reducing air pollution and protecting human health.

"These requirements drive innovation and increase jobs in the growing sector of methane detection and capture technologies," the senators wrote. "We urge you to fully implement the EPA and BLM methane and air pollution regulations as legally required without delay and to keep these important protections for public health, American taxpayers, and our energy security in place."

At issue are the BLM's Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation Rule, aka the venting and flaring rule, and the EPA's updates to its New Source Performance Standards (NSPS). Both were promulgated during the Obama administration.

The Trump administration has targeted both rules, but those efforts have stalled in court. Last March, the president signed an executive order that called for sweeping changes in the energy sector, and included directives for the BLM and EPA to review, revise or rescind the aforementioned rules.

A coalition of environmental and tribal organizations filed a lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California over the BLM's decision to postpone the compliance dates for the venting and flaring rule for at least one year. Meanwhile, after the EPA lost its argument in U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that a 90-day stay over parts of the NSPS was justified, the agency last Friday asked the court to recall its mandate, thereby giving the agency more time to weigh its options.

The BLM's venting and flaring rule, which is to be implemented in stages, called for oil and gas producers to use currently available technologies and processes to cut gas flaring by half at oil wells on public and tribal lands. Operators also would be required to periodically inspect their facilities for leaks and replace outdated equipment that vents large quantities of gas into the air. Other parts of the rule require operators to limit venting from storage tanks and to use best practices to limit gas losses when removing liquids from wells.

EPA had proposed changing the fugitive emissions, pneumatic pump and professional engineer certification requirements outlined in updates to the agency's 2016 NSPS, which was itself designed to reduce methane, volatile organic compounds and toxic air pollutants.

The letter to Trump was signed by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (WI), Michael Bennet (CO), Cory Booker (NJ), Maria Cantwell (WA), Ben Cardin (MD), Tom Carper (DE), Chris Coons (DE), Richard Durbin (IL), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Al Franken (MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Kamala Harris (CA), Maggie Hassan (NH), Martin Heinrich (NM), Mazie Hirono (HI), Ed Markey (MA), Jeff Merkley (OR), Chris Murphy (CT), Patty Murray (WA), Brian Schatz (HI), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Debbie Stabenow (MI), Tom Udall (NM), Chris Van Hollen (MD), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) and Ron Wyden (OR).

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