In summary

A federal judge in San Francisco has ruled that the Trump administration must immediately begin enforcing rules restricting methane emissions, a legal win for California, which had filed suit in July.

A federal judge in San Francisco has ruled that the Trump administration must immediately begin enforcing rules restricting methane emissions, a legal win for California, which had filed suit in July.

The federal court in San Francisco ruled against the Trump administration regarding methane emissions. Image via Flickr

U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Laporte ruled yesterday that the federal Department of Interior illegally postponed the Obama-era Waste Prevention Rule, which had gone into effect in January. The agency delayed enactment of the regulation, which governs the emission of natural gas escaping more than 100,000 oil and gas wells on public lands.

Methane’s potent heat-trapping capacity makes it many times more damaging to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Regulating methane emissions is a critical component of California’s effort to reduce greenhouse gases. The state Air Resources Board recently limited methane coming from both new and existing oil and gas sources.

The lawsuit also contended that the failure to contain the gas—which can be captured and sold to utilities—meant millions of dollars in lost royalties to the federal government.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra noted that it was the third time in recent months that the state has successfully blocked the administration’s moves to roll back environmental protections.

“No one is above the law,” he said in a statement. “As a result of this Rule’s implementation, oil and gas operators on federal and Indian lands will be compelled to prevent the waste of natural gas. Natural gas emissions threaten the health of nearby residents and contribute to climate change.”

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Julie Cart joined CalMatters as a projects and environment reporter in 2016 after a long career at the Los Angeles Times, where she held many positions: sportswriter, national correspondent and environment...