California filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration Tuesday, blasting federal regulators for suspending an Obama-era rule directing oil and gas producers to curb methane flaring on federal lands.
In the lawsuit, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra argues the industry-wide practice contributes to harmful air pollution, especially in the oil fields of the Central Valley, needlessly wastes natural gas and accelerates the flow of heat-trapping emissions in the atmosphere.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco and joined by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, is the latest move by Becerra to block efforts by President Donald Trump and his administration to undo environmental regulations intended to improve air quality and address climate change. It brings California’s total to 24 lawsuits filed against the Trump administration in year one.
“The Trump Administration is effectively threatening the health of our families and our environment,” Becerra said in a statement. “The California Department of Justice won't stand by and subscribe to this blatant violation of our laws.”
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Trump suggested the rule represented government overreach that may hinder economic growth
In a March executive order, Trump said it “is in the national interest to promote clean and safe development of our nation’s vast energy resources, while at the same time avoiding regulatory burdens that unnecessarily encumber production, constrain economic growth and prevent job creation.”
The lawsuit comes less than two weeks after the Trump administration announced it would suspend implementation of the regulation, called the Waste Prevention Rule, passed in November 2016. It sought to force oil and gas companies to limit flaring or leaking of natural gas on federal and tribal lands. The federal Department of the Interior, under former President Barack Obama, at the time said natural gas flaring and leaking wastes “large quantities” of natural gas during oil and gas production, releases “harmful” emissions into the atmosphere and results in millions of taxpayer dollars lost annually.
California filed an earlier lawsuit against the administration for delaying implementation of the rule. Under Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the Bureau of Land Management on Dec. 8 issued new rule to “temporarily suspend or delay” the Obama-era regulation.
California contains 7,900 oil and gas wells on more than 200,000 acres of federal land, according to the complaint. There are 600 producing oil and gas leases on that land. Climate scientists consider methane to be a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide in contributing to climate change.