Four States Now Suing BLM To Overturn Obama Administration’s Methane Rule
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) has joined a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the Obama administration’s “venting and flaring” rule, issued late last year, which targets oil and natural gas development on federal lands.
Paxton’s intervention means four states – Texas, North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana – are now in federal court trying to strike down the rule imposed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in November. Western officials are also leading a separate effort to repeal the venting and flaring rule in Congress.
“This is yet another case of gross federal overreach in which the Bureau of Land Management exceeded its legal authority, bypassing Congress to implement an unlawful rule on methane gas,” Paxton said in a statement to Western Wire. “The regulation has negligible environmental benefit and adds additional cost to both Texas and the oil and gas industry by creating more red tape.”
The Obama administration and environmental groups argued the BLM venting and flaring rule was needed to control methane emissions. But the last-minute regulation has angered officials across the West, who say existing state and federal regulations and industry practices are working to reduce methane emissions. The oil and gas sector’s methane emissions have fallen 21 percent since 1990, according to greenhouse gas data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Over the same period, statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show a 28 percent increase in oil production and a 52 percent jump in natural gas output.
Paxton’s court filing, submitted to the U.S. District Court in Cheyenne, Wyo., explains that the BLM venting and flaring rule impacts both private and federal mineral rights in Texas.
“Texas has unique, split-estate configurations resulting in combinations of federal, state, and private mineral ownership,” Paxton wrote. Even where the federal mineral ownership is small relative to other mineral ownership interests, now all the oil and gas operators with interests are subject to the [BLM venting and flaring rule].”
This “duplicates and displaces Texas law, causing delays and confusion,” Paxton wrote. Texas energy and environmental officials already regulate venting and flaring from oil and gas development, and therefore the Obama administration’s BLM rule is “directly impinging” upon the state’s authority.
Methane is the primary constituent of natural gas. Supporters of the venting and flaring rule say it will increase the amount of natural gas captured and sold, boosting tax revenues. But Paxton says the opposite will happen. Complying with an additional federal regulation on venting and flaring “delays oil and gas development in Texas” and energy companies “can be expected to refocus their planned drilling activities to non-federal lands rather than confront the possibility that the BLM will restrict production on new wells,” Paxton wrote.
“This shifting of capital investments will result in significant loss of oil and gas resources and associated revenues,” the Texas attorney general said in the court filing.
In an order issued today, U.S. Magistrate Judge Kelly H. Rankin granted Paxton’s petition to intervene in the case. Environmental groups fighting the lawsuit include the Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and Environmental Defense Fund.