Mayhall Fondren Blaize

Oil & gas law dominates federal litigation on methane emissions

Legal disputes between state and federal governments, and between private businesses and government bodies, can be triggered or exacerbated when the executive branch changes hands. That dynamic has brought oil & gas law to the forefront of the business litigation stage since the recent switch in occupancy from one party to the other in the White House. Under the prior administration, tough emission regulations regarding the discharge of methane were passed. Louisiana and other oil and gas producing states challenged the strict emissions rules in litigation that was still active and pending when the new administration took office.

After taking office, the new administration issued an order asking the Environment Protection Agency to review the emissions rule. The EPA asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to suspend any final decision on the case brought by Louisiana and 13 other states. The states had complained that the strict emission rules imposed burdensome restrictions on their economies.

The Court of Appeals granted the request of the EPA and ordered the litigation be held basically in abeyance until further results from the ongoing review. The prior administration had promoted the rules as part of its campaign against global warming. The philosophical approach of the new administration toward global warming, however, is essentially the opposite of the prior administration.

At this time, the strict emissions regulations on methane still stand as the prevailing oil & gas law in Louisiana and other states because those federal regulations were passed as law. The new administration proposes generally, after review of the current regulations, to reverse or modify those rules through the appropriate administrative process provided by law. That will include public notice, the right for public input at administrative hearings and other procedural safeguards mandated by law. Many private oil and gas companies are also generally involved in a variety of litigation involving the emissions rules, and the outcome of those cases will also possibly turn on what the EPA review ultimately recommends.

Source:, "Federal Court Halts Obama's Oil And Gas Rule", Andrew Follett, May 19, 2017

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