SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, leading a coalition of 12 states and the city of Chicago, filed comments urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to withdraw its proposed rule gutting 2016 standards that limit emissions of methane and other harmful pollutants.
The weakened standards would apply to emissions from new or modified wells, pumps, and other equipment sources in the oil and natural gas sector. This sector is the largest industrial source of methane emissions, a greenhouse gas up to 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide in its ability to trap heat over a 20-year timeframe. The EPA’s proposed rule would substantially relax the standards that require companies to monitor and repair equipment and sites to prevent leaks of methane and other pollutants. The proposed rule is estimated to increase methane emissions and smog-forming volatile organic compounds by hundreds of thousands of tons through 2025. Th ese emissions contribute significantly to the growing and existential threat of climate change and endanger public health. Along with the state coalition, the California Air Resources Board has also submitted comments on the rule.
“It makes zero sense to gut a commonsense standard that protects our planet from one of the most potent emissions contributing to climate change,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Once again, the Trump Administration proposes a short-sighted rule benefitting corporate polluters over the well-being of our children and communities. We call on Acting Administrator Wheeler to immediately withdraw this unlawful and reckless proposal.”
“We cannot stand by while the Trump Administration weakens rules to reduce emissions of the superpollutant methane from oil and gas exploration and equipment,” said California Air Resources Board Chair Mary D. Nichols. “Climate change is happening before our eyes. We must take every possible step now to slash climate pollution, and call on Administrator Wheeler to withdraw this ill-advised proposal and clamp down on this easily contained source of methane emissions.”
The 2016 standard that the EPA proposes to dismantle is estimated to prevent 300,000 tons of methane emissions in 2020 and 510,000 tons in 2025. The controls required by the standard are also expected to reduce emissions of other pollutants, including volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants. In 2016, the EPA analyzed the costs and benefits of the standard, including the revenues generated from recovered natural gas that would otherwise be vented, and determined that the standard would result in a net benefit estimated at $35 million in 2020 and $170 million in 2025.
The coalition argues in the letter that the EPA’s proposed rule:
Violates the Clean Air Act by failing to demonstrate that the proposal incorporates the best system of emissions reduction;
Fails to provide data, information, and documents supporting the proposed rule; and
Is unlawful, because the EPA fails to justify the reversal of its prior position on the importance of reducing methane emissions.
Further, the states request that the EPA provide the states with compliance information previously requested under the Freedom of Information Act and extend the comment period for an additional 60 days after making that information available.
Joining Attorney General Becerra in filing this letter are the Attorneys General of Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington; as well as the City of Chicago.
Attorney General Becerra has previously taken other measures to resist the Trump Administration‘s efforts to dismantle standards protecting public health and the environment from dangerous methane emissions: In May 2018, Attorney General Becerra led a multistate lawsuit against the EPA over its failure to implement landfill methane regulation. Just a month earlier, Attorney General Becerra, with the California Air Resources Board, joined a multistate lawsuit against the EPA for unreasonably delaying issuance of guidelines limiting methane emissions from existing sources in the oil and natural gas sector.