Joins Coalition of States in Filing Motion To Oppose Stay of Nationwide Standards to Cut Methane Emissions from New Facilities in the Oil and Natural Gas Industry
In the latest measure to block EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt from halting regulations of leaks of greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful air pollutants from new sources in the oil and gas industry, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin and a coalition of 14 attorneys general and the City of Chicago filed a motion in the United States Court of Appeals to intervene in a lawsuit filed by a group of environmental organizations in Clean Air Council v. Pruitt.
The motion to intervene in the case supports the organizations seeking to immediately stop the EPA's unlawful administrative stay of a rule, finalized in 2016 (the 2016 Rule), that would prevent emissions of thousands of tons of the potent greenhouse gas methane, smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and hazardous air pollutants, including benzene and formaldehyde from facilities constructed after September 2015. Administrator Pruitt announced in April 2017 that the EPA would halt the 2016 Rule, and on June 5 implemented a 90-day administrative stay of the Rule's key leak detection and repair requirements, along with an order to reconsider aspects of the 2016 Rule, which has been in place for nearly one year.
"For years, states, including Rhode Island, fought to finalize the EPA rule regulating emissions, only for this Administration to singlehandedly try to undo all the work and effort that has been put forth in reducing emissions and other harmful pollutants from the air we breathe. As with other actions taken against the EPA under Pruitt's watch, we are not going to sit back and watch that happen. There's just too much at stake," said Attorney General Peter Kilmartin.
In addition to Rhode Island, the motion to intervene includes the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington, along with the City of Chicago.
The 2016 Rule requires oil and gas companies to monitor sources of emissions at well sites and compressor stations in order to detect air pollutant leaks and repair them at regular intervals.
According to testimony filed by scientific experts in the case, during the 90-day term of the administrative stay alone, more than 5,300 tons of methane, 1,475 tons of VOCs, and 56 tons of hazardous air pollutants will be emitted that would otherwise have been prevented had the EPA under Administrator Pruitt not put the brakes on the 2016 Rule.
Administrator Pruitt and the EPA have signaled that they will seek to further stay the 2016 Rule for an additional 27 months. If those further stays are implemented, the experts predict at least 48,000 additional tons of methane, 13,000 tons of VOCs, and over 500 tons of hazardous air pollutants will be emitted that would have been prevented by the Rule.
In December 2012, Rhode Island and six other states notified the EPA of their intent to file suit, asserting that the EPA had not complied with its mandatory duty under the Clean Air Act's New Source Performance Standards to determine whether it is appropriate to regulate methane pollution from the oil and gas sector. Several states, including Rhode Island, also submitted comments on the EPA's technical white papers regarding sources of methane emissions in the oil and gas sector, including fugitive emissions, commented on the EPA's proposed 2016 Rule, and intervened in litigation to defend the final 2016 Rule.
Methane is a particularly powerful agent of climate change; pound-for-pound, methane warms the climate about thirty-four times more than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and on a 20-year timeframe, has about eighty-six times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. According to the EPA, the oil and gas sector is the largest emitter of methane in the U.S., accounting for a third of total U.S. methane emissions.