Department of Interior

A Wyoming rig on federal land used for long directional drilling
BLM Wyoming / Bureau of Land Management

The Department of Interior, or DOI, plans to begin the process of changing the methane rule that’s currently in effect, and possibly end it permanently. The Methane and Waste Prevention Rule aims to reduce unnecessary gas and oil emissions by improving technology, reducing flaring, and spotting leaks early.  

A male Sage Grouse (also known as the Greater Sage Grouse) in the USA
Pacific Southwest Region U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Interior Department is expected to take its first tangible step in making large changes to sage grouse management plans. Ninety-eight of these plans were established in 2015 across 10 western states. They came after more than a decade of collaboration in hopes of avoiding an endangered species listing for the chicken-like bird.

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Ranchers have long complained about the amount of red tape required to get grazing permits, and about not being included on land management decisions.

The Bureau of Land Management hopes to resolve some of that tension with a new pilot program that will speed up the permitting process and allow ranchers to determine the best way to make rangelands healthier.

Wyoming BLM spokesperson Kristen Lenhardt said it’s in the best interest of ranchers to improve rangeland quality and their voice needs to be heard.

Earthjustice

The Obama-era “Fracking Rule" that would increase safety and transparency regulations for oil and gas companies is back on the table. A federal appeals court vacated a 2015 decision that stopped the fracking rule, citing government overreach and costliness.

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Two orders were signed Wednesday by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, one of which overturns the Obama administration moratorium on all new coal leases on federal land. 

In a teleconference, Zinke said his agency has not yet decided whether to raise royalty rates, but a federal advisory committee will be re-established to study whether or not Americans get a fair return on natural resources from public land, and will include state, tribal, and other advocacy group members. 

Recent coal company bankruptcies pose a significant risk to taxpayers, the Secretary of the Interior told a U.S. Senate committee Tuesday.

Some of the largest coal companies in the country were never required to put up cash or obtain third-party insurance to cover their reclamation costs.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the federal government is concerned there is little cleanup money set aside as the coal industry slides deeper into financial trouble.

The federal government notified regulators in Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico this week that one of the world's largest coal companies may be out of compliance with coal mining regulations. 

Stephanie Joyce

A panel that makes recommendations on whether new federal coal projects should move forward has given the green light to two proposals in Montana and Wyoming.

Cloud Peak Energy and Lighthouse Resources want to mine a combined 644 million tons of coal from government reserves. The Powder River regional coal team recommended that the Bureau of Land Management begin the environmental review process for both projects.

Dan Boyce / Inside Energy

A federal judge in Wyoming has temporarily blocked implementation of new rules governing fracking on federal lands.

The new rules would require the disclosure of fracking chemicals and more mechanical integrity testing for wells, among other things. But U.S. District Court judge Scott Skavdahl argues in the injunction that federal agencies cannot regulate fracking.

Duncan Harris / Creative Commons

An unfolding court case might change how Powder River Basin coal is taxed in Montana. Last week, a Montana district court heard oral arguments in a lawsuit pitting Cloud Peak Energy against the state.

The state is asking for $3.4 million in back taxes, arguing that Cloud Peak underpaid between 2005 and 2007 by selling to an affiliated company at below-market value.