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The DOI Eliminates Safeguards on Methane Waste

The Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management on Tuesday released its final rule eliminating Obama-era regulations on methane waste.

Though ostensibly a revision of the 2016 Waste Prevention Rule (also known as the Venting and Flaring Rule), the new rule effectively does away with the safeguards its predecessor provided. The 2016 rule required oil and gas companies to limit methane leaks on public lands and to pay for the methane—a potent greenhouse gas and a significant contributor to climate change—they captured. The BLM issued a temporary suspension of the rule in January of this year.

Several non-profit groups have lambasted the new rule as a handout to the extractive industry and a loss for American taxpayers. Matt Lee-Ashley, senior fellow and senior director of environmental strategy at the Center for American Progress, called the rule "yet another backdoor giveaway to oil and gas lobbyists at the expense of clear air, clean water, and taxpayer wallets."

The Department of the Interior's announcement comes one week after the Environmental Protection Agency proposed to weaken its own Obama-era methane emission rules. In a statement, Lena Moffitt, senior director of the Sierra Club's Our Wild America campaign, described the announcement as "a continuation of this administration's ongoing assault on clean air, public lands, our health, and our climate."

An analysis by the Center for Western Priorities found that 99.8 percent of public comments submitted opposed the new rule.