Government watchdog groups are challenging the Trump administration in court over its move to suspend methane emission rules for oil and gas production on federal lands.
Tuesday, a coalition of environmental groups including the Montana Environmental Information Center filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court. They want to stop the Bureau of Land Management from implementing a 1-year delay of the Methane Waste Prevention Rule, which requires companies to comply with tighter emission standards.
"Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas, extremely potent. It should not be discarded and put into the atmosphere," says Anne Hedges, deputy director of the Montana Environmental Information Center.
The rule limiting methane emissions was finalized under the Obama administration in 2016. It requires companies to repair leaky and faulty equipment and reduce natural gas waste on public lands.
The BLM suspended the rule earlier this month, a move it said would save oil and gas companies from high compliance costs while the agency revises the regulation.
Hedges said the move to delay regulations until 2019 is a way of letting the oil and gas industry off the hook while the Interior Department guts the existing rule.
"This is kind of another attempt at trying to avoid these companies having to capture these natural resources and pay taxpayers the revenue that we’re due," Hedges says.
But Alan Olson, the Executive Director of the Montana Petroleum Association, thinks the rule goes too far.
"That’s the problem with some of these federal regulations, they get into a one-size-fits-all, and it just doesn’t work," he says.
Olson thinks Montana’s oil and gas industry is already in good compliance.
"You sit back and you look at the various state requirements that are already in place, they are more than adequate to address the issues, so it’s not that big of an issue at the state level," Olson says.
Reuters reports the Interior Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
The Trump administration is expected to announce a new draft rule in the coming weeks.