Monday, July 6, 2020

AG Shapiro Joins 15 Other States, EDF Asking Court To Require EPA To Set Methane Pollution Standards For Existing Oil & Gas Operations

On July 6, Attorney General Josh Shapiro joined 15 other states, cities and the
Environmental Defense Fund in filing a motion in federal court to require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to stop stalling on setting methane pollution standards for existing oil and gas operations.
“For almost four years now, Trump’s EPA has been shirking its duty to protect people from one of our most dangerous types of climate pollution, without offering any legitimate reason why,” said EDF senior attorney Rosalie Winn. “The science supporting the need for urgent action has become even more compelling in that time, cost-effective solutions are at hand, and everyone from states to major oil and gas producers recognize the importance of EPA standards for existing oil and gas sources. EPA must act now to protect the public from methane pollution.”

The filing includes the major oil and gas producing states of California, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania, as well as the states of New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, the District of Columbia, the city of Chicago, and EDF.

Existing oil and gas sources are the largest industrial emitter of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that is responsible for a quarter of the climate change we are experiencing today. 

The federal Clean Air Act requires EPA to regulate methane from both new and existing sources.

In 2016, EPA set a course to “swiftly” develop safeguards for methane from existing oil and gas sources – but since then the Trump administration has reversed course and, by its own admission, taken no steps to put in place protections to reduce methane from existing sources. 

EDF and the states' filing asks the court to find that EPA has unreasonably delayed fulfilling its obligation to establish methane standards for existing sources and to set a schedule requiring the agency to move forward swiftly. 

In support of their filing, the coalition submitted detailed declarations by EDF experts analyzing substantial pollution and health harms due to EPA’s delay.

For instance, EDF said:

-- EPA’s delay in adopting existing source standards has allowed more than three million metric tons of methane pollution that would otherwise have been captured to escape into the atmosphere each year.

-- This methane pollution is emitted alongside harmful smog-forming and hazardous air pollution like benzene, which disproportionately impacts communities living close to the existing oil and gas sources.

-- The expert analysis finds that roughly 9.3 million people in the United States – including 600,000 children under the age of five, 1.4 million people over the age of 65, 1.4 million people living below the poverty line, and almost 2.8. million people of color – live within half a mile of an existing well and are exposed to harmful local air pollution in the absence of existing source standards.

The filing also describes the widely available and cost effective solutions to reduce methane pollution and the existing state standards that further support the feasibility of swift EPA action. 

Notwithstanding this compelling body of evidence, the Trump EPA has ignored its obligation to set standards for existing sources and instead focused on rolling back safeguards against methane from new oil and gas sources – a move that would only exacerbate the pollution and health harms associated with its delay of standards for existing sources.

Click Here for a copy of the motion.

PA’s Own Standard

The Environmental Quality Board is now accepting comments on proposed regulations setting Pennsylvania’s own standard for volatile organic compound-- and by extension methane emissions-- for existing oil and gas operations.  Comments are due July 27.  Read more here.

Related Article:

Reminder: EQB Virtual Hearings On Reg. Controlling VOCs/Methane From Existing Oil, Gas Operations June 23, 24, 25

[Posted: July 6, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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