DOI seeks review of California federal court’s BLM methane ruling

The US Department of the Interior has asked the appeals court for the Ninth US Judicial Circuit in San Francisco to review and overturn a lower court’s decision in October ordering the US Bureau of Land Management to make oil and gas producers comply with certain methane emissions requirements while the rules are being reviewed.

The US Department of the Interior has asked the appeals court for the Ninth US Judicial Circuit in San Francisco to review and overturn a lower court’s decision in October ordering the US Bureau of Land Management to make oil and gas producers comply with certain methane emissions requirements while the rules are being reviewed. The US Department of Justice filed the Dec. 4 petition on DOI’s behalf.

BLM proposed temporarily suspending or delaying certain parts of its 2016 venting and flaring rule until Jan. 27, 2019, after determining some parts of it would create unnecessary burdens for producers during an evaluation ordered by Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke (OGJ Online, Oct. 4, 2017). The agency previously proposed postponing Jan. 1, 2018, venting and flaring rule compliance requirements in June under an Administrative Procedure Act provision allowing such an action pending judicial review.

California and New Mexico’s attorneys general and 17 environmental and citizens’ organizations separately challenged BLM’s June proposal the following month in US District Court for Northern California, arguing that no federal agency has authority to change a rule’s compliance dates once it has taken effect without providing public notice and seeking comments first.

After hearing their arguments on Sept. 5, Judge Elizabeth D. Laporte ruled in October that a federal agency can delay a regulation’s effective date, but not a compliance date.

The venting and flaring rule already was in effect when BLM proposed postponing the Jan. 1, 2018, compliance requirements in June, she noted. The delay would not only be contrary to the APA, but also would collapse “the clear statutory distinction between the 2 periods before and after a rule takes effect,” Laporte said.

The Western Energy Alliance and Independent Petroleum Association of America jointly sought injunctive relief subsequently for their members from impending January 2018 compliance dates under BLM’s venting and flaring rule (OGJ Online, Oct. 30, 2017).

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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