Regulation Database – Bureau of Land Management

Waste Mine Methane Capture, Use, Sale, or Destruction (Coal and Other Minerals)

On April 29, 2014 the Bureau of Land Management published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to establish a program which would “capture, use, or destroy waste mine methane that is released into the mine environment and the atmosphere as a direct consequence of underground mining operations.” In addition to improving the safety and health of miners, this proposed rule would reduce mine methane leakage into the atmosphere, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This rule would therefore promote the Climate Action Plan’s Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions (March 2014) as well as Secretarial Order 3289, Amendment No. 1 (“Addressing the Impacts of Climate Change on America’s Water, Land, and other Natural and Cultural Resources,” dated February 22, 2010).

The primary goal of the advance notice was to request comments and suggestions that might assist the agency in the establishment of a program to capture, use, or destroy waste mine methane that is released into the mine environment and the atmosphere as a direct consequence of underground mining operations on Federal leases for coal and other minerals.

BLM has not yet issued a final rule for this program (see docket, RIN-1004-AE23).

Methane Waste Prevention Rule

In November 2016, BLM published a final rule to reduce waste of natural gas (methane) from oil and natural gas production activities on federal and tribal land. The rule includes new requirements for flaring, capture, leak detection, and venting. According to BLM, the rule could eliminate 175,000-180,000 tons of methane emissions annually (equivalent to 4.4-4.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide).

Deregulatory Action: On March 28, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order directing BLM  to review the methane waste rule and to rescind or rewrite the rule as needed to promote the President’s goals of energy independence and economic growth. On March 29, 2017, the Department of Interior issued Secretarial Order 3349, which directs BLM to review the the methane waste prevention rule and report on whether the rule is fully consistent with the executive order’s policy of promoting domestic energy production.

On June 15, 2017, BLM issued a federal register notice announcing that it was postponing the compliance dates for certain provisions of the Methane Waste Prevention Rule (finalized on November 10, 2016), which aims to reduce waste of natural gas (methane) from oil and natural gas production activities on federal and tribal land. BLM said that it was delaying the compliance dates pending the outcome of litigation over the rule. On October 5, 2017, BLM issued a follow-up proposal to postpone key requirements of the rule until January 17, 2019.

On November 1, 2017, BLM sent a proposal for “revision or rescission” of the Methane Waste Prevention Rule to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. On December 8, 2017, BLM issued a final rule postponing several key requirements of the Methane Waste Prevention Rule.

On February 22, 2018, BLM published its proposed revisions to the Methane Waste Prevention Rule. BLM proposed to rescind several provisions of the 2016 rules, including those governing leak detection and repair. Other provisions, including those dealing with venting and flaring, would be substantially revised.  On September 28, 2018, BLM finalized the changes to the Methane Waste Prevention Rule.  Read more on our blog>>>

Litigation: On July 5, 2017, the States of California and New Mexico filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, challenging BLM’s first decision to postpone certain compliance dates of the Methane Waste Prevention Rule. A second suit challenging BLM’s decision was filed by 17 environmental groups (led by the Sierra Club) on July 10, 2017. On October 4, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a decision vacating the postponement notice, thereby reinstating the original deadlines for compliance with the rule.

On December 19, 2017, the States of California and New Mexico sued the administration, challenging issuance of the December 2017 rule postponing implementation of the Methane Waste Prevention Rule. A second suit challenging the rule was filed by 17 conservation and tribal citizens groups. On February 22, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted a preliminary injunction enjoining BLM from enforcing the December 2017 rule. On March 28, 2019, the parties jointly agreed to dismiss the case because the December 2017 suspension order was no longer in effect.   

On July 15, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California vacated the 2018 rescission of the Methane Waste Prevention Rule. On September 14, 2020, BLM appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit.

On October 8, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming vacated the Obama Administration's Methane Waste Prevention Rule. The Court concluded that the rule unlawfully sought to control air pollution rather than waste, and that BLM therefore intruded on the purview of the EPA and states under the Clean Air Act.

Programmatic Environmental Review of Coal Leasing Program

Consistent with the Department of Interior Secretarial Order no. 3338, in March 2016 BLM began a programmatic review of the federal coal leasing program to evaluate the environmental and social effects of the program and determine whether the program should be modernized. The order also imposed a moratorium on coal leasing until the revised programmatic environmental impact statement was completed.

Deregulatory Action: on March 29, 2017, Interior Secretary Zinke issued Secretarial Order no. 3348, which rescinded Secretarial Order no. 3338 and permitted coal leasing to resume on federal land.  On May 22, 2019, BLM issued a draft environmental assessment for its decision to lift the moratorium on federal coal leasing, which concluded that the action would have no significant effect on greenhouse gas emissions or other environmental impacts other than to change the timing of the emissions and impacts.

Litigation: on March 29, 2017, several environmental groups challenged BLM's decision to lift the moratorium in the District Court for the District of Montana. On May 9, 2017, several states followed suit. On April 19, 2019, the court ruled for the plaintiffs, holding that the decision to lift the moratorium triggered a requirement to conduct an environmental review under NEPA. On May 22, 2019, BLM notified the court that it had a draft environmental assessment; on May 22, 2020, the court concluded that BLM had remedied the NEPA violation. On July 23, 2020, the environmental plaintiffs challenged BLM's environmental assessment.

Segregation of Land for Renewable Energy Right-of-Way

On April 26, 2011 the Bureau of Land Management published a proposal to allow the BLM to segregate public lands intended for a current or future wind or solar energy right-of-way (ROW) application, promoting renewable energy production in accordance with the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and executive order 13212. This rule would add to 43 CFR parts 2090 and 2800, and prevent land from appropriation under the public land laws for up to two years with the possibility to extend for an additional two years. The amendment would give priority to renewable energy development by eliminating competing claims and applications for other uses of the public land (i.e. mining). On the same day, the Bureau of Land Management issued an interim temporary final rule enforcing the proposed amendment for a period of up to two years, effective immediately.

The Bureau of Land Management replaced the interim temporary rule “Segregation of Lands—Renewable Energy” with a final rule, effective May 30, 2013, with no substantive differences in content from the proposed and temporary rule.

Solar and Wind Energy Leasing Program

On September 30, 2014, the Bureau of Land Management proposed a rule to amend current solar and wind energy regulations by creating designated leasing areas defined as “a parcel of land with specific boundaries identified by the BLM land-use planning process as being a preferred location, conducted through a landscape-scale approach, for solar or wind energy where a competitive process must be undertaken.” On December 19, 2016, BLM published the final rule. The rule aims to promote renewable energy development rights-of-way consistent with the Energy Policy Act’s provision to approve non-hydropower renewable energy projects on public lands with a total combined generation capacity of 10,000 MW of electricity by 2015 (Section 211, Public Law 109-58, 119 Stat. 660 (2005)). The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) finalized the rule in 2016.

BLM also prepared environmental impact statements (EISs) for solar and wind energy development on public lands in conjunction with the new solar and wind program. These include:

(1) Programmatic EIS for Solar Energy Development in the Southwest (July 2012)

(2) Wind Energy Final Programmatic EIS (June 2005)

Landscape Approach to Climate Change Adaptation

In 2010 BLM began to implement a “landscape approach” to climate change adaptation, consistent with Department of Interior Secretarial Orders 3289 and 3285. This approach involved five core elements: (1) the preparation of Rapid Ecoregional Assessments (REAs)—reports that examine ecological values, conditions, and trends (including climate change-related trends) within large connected areas with similar environmental characteristics; (2) the incorporation of REA findings into landscape-level management strategies, referred to as Ecoregional Direction; (3) field implementation of the Ecoregional Direction, (4) monitoring for adaptive management; and (5) coordinating with DOI’s Climate Science Centers throughout this process.

The first step of the Landscape Approach was for BLM to conduct REAs for fifteen regions in the western United States and Alaska. Under the Obama Administration, BLM completed ten of the fifteen REAs. The REAs served a function that is quite similar to the regional vulnerability assessments prepared by other agencies.

Planning 2.0 Rule

The Planning 2.0 rule aimed to improve BLM’s land use planning and environmental review processes by providing BLM with the tools needed to respond to changing conditions in a timely manner. The rule was intended to: (i) give BLM flexibility to plan across traditional administrative boundaries and implement landscape-level management approaches, and (ii)  introduce new guidelines aimed at ensuring that BLM officials incorporate the most current data and technology into their plans and reviews, and (iii) provide more opportunities for input from state and local governments and the public during the planning process.  BLM states that the rule will enable it to more readily address resource issues at a variety of scales, such as wildfire, wildlife habitat, appropriate development, or the demand for renewable and non-renewable energy sources, and to respond more effectively to change (including climate change).

Fossil Fuel Leasing

On January 20, 2021, the Interior Department imposed a 60-day moratorium on fossil fuel leasing and permitting for federal land and water. The moratorium was challenged by fossil fuel lobbyists in the District Court for the District of Wyoming on January 27. A coalition of states filed a similar challenge on March 24 in the District Court for the Western District of Louisiana. On June 15 the Louisiana judge issued a preliminary injunction allowing leasing to proceed pending the outcome of the litigation.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Deregulatory Action: On August 17, 2020, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program Record of Decision, allowing oil and gas drilling in over 1.5 million acres in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The action reverses decades-long protections for the largest national wildlife refuge in the country.

Litigation: On September 9, 2020, fifteen states filed a lawsuit in the federal district court for the District of Alaska challenging federal defendants’ approval of an oil and gas leasing program on the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Washington v. Bernhardt. Indigenous and environmental plaintiffs had filed a similar lawsuit on August 24, 2020. On February 9, 2021, the government filed a motion to stay the case pending review of the program, which was granted on February 12. On January 11, 2022, the Department of Interior announced in a court filing that they will be reversing the Trump administration policy authorizing expanded leasing and development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Drilling in Sage Grouse Territory

Deregulatory Action: On March 15, 2019, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) amended six resource management plans (RMPs) in the western U.S. to remove protections for the sage grouse. The revisions lift restrictions on mineral development on approximately 9 million acres of sage grouse habitat, opening these areas for oil and gas leasing and other extractive uses. Thee protections that were lifted were critical to the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)’s 2015 determination that the sage grouse was not threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

This was the largest action undertaken by the Trump administration to date to open federal lands for fossil fuel leasing. The RMP amendments cover federal lands in Oregon, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, California, and Wyoming.

Litigation: In October 2019, the United States District Court for the District of Idaho preliminarily enjoined the 2019 amendments to BLM's resource management plans. 

Reregulation: On November 22, 2021, the Bureau of Land Management published a notice of intent to review land use plans for sage-grouse habitat in the Western United States. BLM will reconsider 2019 amendments to the land use plans in the States of California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming, which had opened sage-grouse habitat to oil and gas drilling and mining, and which the United States District Court for the District of Idaho preliminarily enjoined in October 2019. BLM will also reconsider 2015 amendments to the sage-grouse land use plans in Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. In its published notice, BLM states that the 2019 and 2015 amendments are potentially inconsistent with new science and rapid changes affecting the BLM’s management of the public lands, including the effects of climate change.

National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska

On April, 25, 2022, the Bureau of Land Management issued a Record of Decision reverting the Integrated Activity Plan for the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska to that approved in 2013. The Record of Decision replaces the plan adopted by the Trump administration in 2020. The new Integrated Activity Plan reduces the percentage of land in the National Petroleum Reserve available for oil and gas leasing from roughly 82% to roughly 52%.