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California, Enviro Groups Appeal Stay of Natural Gas Venting/Flaring Rule

The State of California and a coalition of 16 environmental groups are appealing a decision by a federal judge in Wyoming to stay the implementation of parts of an Obama-era rule governing associated natural gas flaring and venting on public and tribal lands.

According to records with the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, the environmental groups filed an appeal on Thursday, with California joining the appeal and paying the necessary fees on Friday.

At issue is a ruling by Judge Scott Skavdahl of the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming. Skavdahl ruled the phase-in provisions of the Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation Rule, aka the venting and flaring rule, should be placed on hold to give the Department of Interior's (DOI) Bureau of Land Management (BLM) more time to ultimately revise or rescind the rule.

"The Trump administration wants to kill sensible methane rules for the oil and gas industry that save money and curb dangerous pollution," said attorney Michael Saul of the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). The Wyoming decision “to delay the waste rule looked only at what compliance would cost the industry, not what it would save the public."

Executive Director Erik Schlenker-Goodrich of the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC), said "methane waste seriously and urgently threatens our climate, our pocketbook and public health. We will not stand by and accede to the Trump administration's efforts to rollback safeguards essential to the public interest." WELC is representing CBD and other environmental groups in the appellate case, State of Wyoming et al v. DOI et al, No. 18-8027. As of Friday afternoon, the State of New Mexico was also listed as an intervenor but was not a party in the case.

Environmental groups had prevailed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California only six weeks earlier. On Feb. 22, Judge William Orrick rejected a proposed rule by the BLM to delay enforcement of parts of the rule until next January. Attorneys general for California and New Mexico were parties to that lawsuit.

The Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Western Energy Alliance filed a lawsuit against the rule in Wyoming district court in November 2016. Montana and Wyoming filed a separate lawsuit, and North Dakota and Texas subsequently joined as petitioners. The two lawsuits were combined at the end of November.

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