After the Interior Department on Tuesday gutted Obama-era regulations requiring fossil fuel companies to curb methane emissions and take certain safety precautions to prevent leaks on public lands, a pair of state attorneys general filed suit and protesters gathered outside the department’s Washington, D.C. headquarters to demand the ouster of Secretary Ryan Zinke.
Activists with the advocacy group Friends of the Earth (FOE) marked Public Lands Day on Wednesday with the D.C. demonstration to remind Zinke and the rest of the Trump administration “that Americans want to protect our public lands and waters, not see them decimated by the fossil fuel industry.” The group warned on Twitter, “If we don’t make our voices heard, oil and gas drilling, fracking, and mining could scar our public lands forever.”
Through #FireZinke signs, chants, and social media posts, the demonstrators highlighted the secretary’s mounting scandals and moves to turn over public lands to polluting industries.
The protest came a day after the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) finalized its repeal of the Obama-era regulations and unveiled the administration’s revised rule (pdf) that, as Common Dreams reported, “dramatically rolls back restrictions on methane emissions, which are a major driver of the climate crisis.” Experts warned the new rule enables “fossil fuel extractors to pollute with impunity.”
In response, two state attorneys general—Xavier Becerra of California and Hector Balderas of New Mexico—and the California Air Resources Board filed a lawsuit (pdf) in federal court Tuesday. The suit charges that Zinke and the department “acted arbitrarily, capriciously, contrary to law, abused their discretion, and failed to follow the procedure required by law” when repealing and replacing the Obama-era rule.
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