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Activists Declare #FireZinke and State AGs File Suit After Interior Dept Guts Methane Rules for Public Lands

"Ryan Zinke has wasted tax dollars on private jets, has entered into a shady deal with an oil exec, and is dead set on handing our public lands over to corporate polluters."

fire zinke protest

Activists with Friends of the Earth gathered outside the Interior Department headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to demand the ouster of Secretary Ryan Zinke. (Photo: @foe_us/Twitter)

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.

"With this attempt to axe the Waste Prevention Rule, the Trump administration risks the air our children breathe and at taxpayers' expense," Becerra said in a statement. "We've sued the administration before over the illegal delay and suspension of this rule and will continue doing everything in our power to hold them accountable for the sake of our people and planet."

Zinke, meanwhile, continued to stoke his cozy relationship with polluters on Tuesday. Speaking at the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association fall meeting, the secretary said the government should work for the fossil fuel industry, according to a tweet from the trade group.

"It doesn't get more blatant than this," responded FOE. "Zinke thinks our public lands & waters belong to Big Oil, not Americans. "

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