Updated Post on Secretary Zinke on Methane In Front of the Senate

June 22nd Update:

In Secretary Zinke’s testimony, described below, he said he was committed to enforcing the BLM’s Methane Waste Rule, according to the law.

If that’s the case, then the Secretary may want to talk to the lawyers who are working on the Methane Waste Rule in federal court.

Bureau of Land Management lawyers are arguing that because the agency is committed to writing a new rule, DOI will be suspending THE ENTIRE RULE, not just portions as previously stated, through the next 18 months. That means that even as protections governing natural gas waste are on the books, and have been upheld by Congress, they are determined not to enforce these protections, just to help their oil and gas buddies.

So, the question becomes: Do we believe Secretary Zinke’s words to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, or do we believe the lawyers and their motions in federal court? Maybe an enterprising reporter should ask…

June 20th Original:

Since the Trump administration decided to suspend enforcement and implementation of the Bureau of Land Management’s Methane Waste Rule last week, some members of Congress have stepped up to lead the charge for the American people.

In the last week, Rep. Raul Grijalva, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, and Senators Maria Cantwell and Tom Udall sent letters to Secretary of the Interior Zinke to urge him to make sure that oil and gas companies do not waste taxpayer owned resources on federal lands.

These letters show the commitment that public lands champions in Congress have towards ensuring that our land and resources are used for public good, and that our land and air are protected from pollution and irresponsible oil and gas development. Unfortunately, it is an uphill battle these days, as the Trump administration and Department of the Interior are intent on doing anything they can to please the oil and gas industry.

Credit: Mike Eisenfeld, WildEarth Guardians, flickr

At the same time that Senators Cantwell and Udall were sending their letters, Secretary Zinke was testifying in front of Senator Cantwell at the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He said, in response to a question about why he was suspending the protections within the Methane Waste Rule, that the rule was “not particularly well-written.” It was a peculiar thing to say, given that the rule took over 4 years to write with over 300,000 public comments taken into account.

Secretary Zinke also made the comment that flaring is wasteful. So he supports the rule — a rule that would give $800 million to taxpayers over the next 10 years and stop putting harmful emissions into the air. However, in the same breath he is bowing to the oil and gas industry and stopping the enforcement of a rule, even as he supports the goals of the rule!

Oil and gas operations in Pawnee National Grasslands, CO Credit: Mason Cummings, TWS

This is the same problem we have seen from the administration when it comes to public lands over and over again. They talk a good game, but when push comes to shove, it’s the interests of the fossil fuel industry over the American people. It’s time that their actions match their words.

Thank you to Congressional champs for your continued efforts to stand up to the fossil fuel industry. It’s about time that Secretary Zinke does it too.