Court orders BLM to reinstate venting, flaring rule deadlines

A federal district judge in Northern California issued a preliminary injunction rejecting the US Bureau of Land Management’s suspension until Jan. 17, 2019, of compliance deadlines under its 2016 venting and flaring rule while it considered revising the regulation.

A federal district judge in Northern California issued a preliminary injunction rejecting the US Bureau of Land Management’s suspension until Jan. 17, 2019, of compliance deadlines under its 2016 venting and flaring rule while it considered revising the regulation (OGJ Online, Dec. 8, 2017).

“Plaintiffs have provided several reasons that the suspension rule is arbitrary and capricious, both for substantive reasons, as a result of the lack of a reasoned analysis, and procedural ones, due to the lack of meaningful notice and comment,” US District Judge William H. Orick said in his Feb. 22 order granting environmental organizations and the states of California and New Mexico the temporary halt to the compliance deadlines suspension that they sought.

Orick also rejected a petition by the US Department of the Interior and others to move the legal challenge’s venue to US District Court in Wyoming, where previous venting and flaring rule challenges have been litigated. He said the compliance implementation lawsuit was a distinct challenge and did not need to be combined with earlier venting and flaring rule actions.

“This forum is home to the state of California, a state sovereign, which contains a significant amount of land that stands to be affected by the outcome of this litigation,” he wrote. “While defendants argue that the state of Wyoming has a larger amount of federal and Indian oil and gas development impacted by the suspension rule, this does not diminish California’s real interest.”

BLM subsequently proposed changes to the venting and flaring rule after completing the review, which found that the regulation underestimated its impact on operators and overlapped with many existing state and federal regulations (OGJ Online, Feb. 13, 2018).

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

More in Government