A federal judge in San Francisco on Wednesday reinstated an Obama-era rule that restricted methane emissions from oil and gas production on public lands.
The Interior Department had requested delaying implementation until 2019, claiming it was a regulatory burden that negatively affected energy production, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Laporte said the department did not give a "reasoned explanation" or say why it believed an analysis from the Obama administration was flawed. The regulation, finalized last November, orders energy companies to capture methane that is burned off at drilling sites. Methane is a pollutant and leading cause of global warming, and it's estimated that every year, $330 million worth of methane in the United States is wasted, either through leaks or intentional releases on federal lands.
Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) praised the decision, telling The Associated Press that before the rule was in place, about $100 million in natural gas, owned by taxpayers, was wasted from oil and gas wells operating on public lands in his state. "This rule is simply good policy — good for taxpayers, good for the economy, and good for the environment," he said.