On September 28, 2018, several environmental groups filed suit, challenging the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's ("BLM") rule rescinding ("Rescission Rule") almost all provisions of the Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation Rule ("Waste Prevention Rule"). Sierra Club v. Zinke, No. 3:18-cv-5984 (N.D. Cal.).

The Waste Prevention Rule, promulgated by BLM during the Obama Administration, became effective on January 17, 2017. The Waste Prevention Rule aimed to reduce waste and climate change-causing methane emissions by requiring waste-minimization plans, gas-capture percentages, and leak detection and repair, along with other provisions.

The Rescission Rule rescinds numerous requirements of the Waste Prevention Rule, including those pertaining to waste-minimization plans, gas-capture percentages, well drilling, well completion and related operations, and leak detection and repair. The Rescission Rule also includes changes to the amount of methane gas that must be captured on public and tribal land. The Rescission Rule is set to become effective on November 27, 2018.

According to the Trump Administration, the Waste Prevention Rule stepped on state and federal regulations and underestimated the cost for businesses to comply, thereby encumbering energy production, constraining economic growth, and preventing job creation. The Interior Department believes that the Rescission Rule "will eliminate complicated and expensive regulations for companies that operate on federal land."

The environmental groups, on the other hand, argue that the Rescission Rule "unlawfully revokes reasonable protections designed to limit waste of natural gas by oil and gas companies on federal public and Indian lands resulting from venting, flaring (burning gas without capturing its energy), and equipment leaks." They also argue that BLM is focusing on industry profit and disregarding "its legal obligations to protect the public and environment." The complaint questions why BLM's position is now so dramatically changed from 2016.

The environmental groups have requested a declaratory judgment that BLM violated the Administrative Procedure Act, Mineral Leasing Act, Federal Land Policy Management Act, and National Environmental Policy Act, and acted arbitrarily, capriciously, contrary to law, and in excess of statutory authority by issuing the Rescission Rule. The environmental groups ultimately request that the court vacate the Rescission Rule and reinstate the Waste Prevention Rule in its entirety. An initial case management conference is scheduled for January 16, 2019.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.