By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Gov. Mark Gordon said Tuesday he is pleased about a federal district court ruling that will soon allow the state to resume its legal challenge of a rule that would force energy companies to capture and use natural gas rather than vent or flare it.
Last week, a California federal district court set aside the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s current rule governing venting and flaring of natural gas on public lands, allowing the Obama-era rule to be reimposed in 90 days. As a result, a federal court in Cheyenne lifted a stay on legal action the state of Wyoming and other states had taken against rules on flaring and venting adopted by the Obama Administration.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, flaring is the controlled burning of natural gas and is a common practice in oil and gas exploration, production and processing operations. Flares generate heat and noise. Venting is the direct release of natural gas into the atmosphere.
The Obama Administration rule required oil and gas companies operating on public lands to capture more of that natural gas and use to to produce energy. Energy producers argued that it was cheaper to flare or vent the gas than to process it for energy production.
The Trump Administration worked to nullify those rules with its own, but the California district court rejected those rules.
“In a thorough, but thoroughly incorrect ruling, the judge rejected the Trump Administration’s commonsense approach to the management of waste gas,” Gordon said in a news release. “The Trump Administration recognized and respected Wyoming’s longstanding and effective regulations, while the Obama administration sought to impose a one-size-fits-all mandate that imposes tremendous costs on oil and gas producers to save small amounts of natural gas.”
Before the Trump Administration rules took effect, Wyoming and other energy states were in the process of challenging the validity of the Obama-era rule in federal court in Wyoming. Those proceedings were paused when the Trump administration replaced the rule.
The Wyoming court lifted a stay on the case on Tuesday, allowing Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota and Texas to proceed with their challenge to the Obama rule before it goes into effect and causes substantial harm.
“Wyoming will be reviewing its options to appeal the California decision, but in the meantime we will do all we can to avoid the harm that the Obama-era rule will cause in this particularly difficult time for Wyoming’s energy industry,” Governor Gordon said.