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Flaring

Roy Merrill, an engineer at a Wold Energy drilling site near Rolling Hills, points out various parts of the rig recently during a tour of the well. 

Wyoming is trying to bring the methane rule fight back to federal court in the Cowboy State with the aim of scrapping the regulations until the Interior Department gives the country new ones.

But a recent court ruling in California put the 2016-regulations into immediate effect while the Interior finishes the rule-making process.

Wyoming and other industry states say compliance is unfair and the rule should be tabled until the Interior is finished with its revision process.

“Neither the regulated community nor the BLM is capable of switching on compliance with the Waste Prevention Rule overnight,” the state counsel argued in court documents filed Wednesday.

Large firms like ExxonMobil have reported that they are ready to comply, while smaller Wyoming companies are less certain.

Texas and North Dakota, along with industry groups like Western Energy Alliance, are also included in the case, according to court documents.

The methane rule places restrictions on oil and gas companies to reduce flaring and leaking gas on federal and tribal lands. Proponents of the rule say lost gas equals lost dollars to the American taxpayer and that capturing natural gas for sale reduces the health and environmental impact of emissions. Those opposed say the Bureau of Land Management overstepped its authority in regulating environmental concerns and that the requirements force companies to bear an unfair cost.

With a political change in Washington, 2017 looked to be the year the Obama-era rule would be eliminated.

Industry failed to convince a federal court in Wyoming to hold compliance. Congress tried to axe the rule, but lost by three dissenting votes from Republican senators. Interior also made its own attempt to discard the rule, but the courts decided that federal officials had to take the rule apart just as it was put together — with public comment and consideration.

The ping-pong effect benefits no-one, Wyoming’s court argument states. Moreover, the requirements are about to go away.

“Switching back and forth between competing regulatory regimes for a period of perhaps four months presents exactly the kind of chaos and disruption that the court can and should act to prevent,” the arguments states.

Wyoming’s delegation has criticized the methane rule as an attack on fossil fuels, and industry groups have lamented potential costs to their operations. Others say the methane rule is a common sense solution to a number of clear problems— waste and emissions-induced climate change.

A recent Colorado College survey showed that 77 percent of the Wyomingites polled supported the types of requirements included in the methane rule, such as using infrared equipment to catch leaking gas.

Follow energy reporter Heather Richards on Twitter @hroxaner

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Energy Reporter

Heather Richards writes about energy and the environment. A native of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, she moved to Wyoming in 2015 to cover natural resources and government in Buffalo. Heather joined the Star Tribune later that year.

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