20 States Sue EPA Over Methane Emissions Standards Rollback

A coalition of 20 states and four municipalities sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday over its rollback of methane emissions standards for oil and gas production.

Source: The Hill | Published on September 14, 2020

Last month, the EPA formally rescinded Obama-era standards that regulate methane emissions from oil and gas production, processing, transmission and storage. It also rolled back requirements for detecting and repairing leaks.

The agency said that combined, its actions would increase the emissions of methane, which is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in trapping heat, by 850,000 tons over 10 years.

In announcing their lawsuit on Monday, the states and cities argued that the standards rollback would accelerate the impacts of climate change and harm public health.

“The West is on fire, the South floods, the Midwest gets ripped apart by super-tornadoes, and the East prepares for calamitous hurricanes. The Trump Administration ignores the dire reality of the climate crisis at our peril,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D), who led the coalition, in a statement.

“We won't let the EPA gut critical pollution emissions standards and allow super pollutants like methane to destroy our atmosphere,” he added.

A California-led coalition also plans to sue over the leak detection rollback.

An EPA spokesperson declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

In rescinding the standards last month, the EPA argued that they were redundant, and overlapped significantly with regulations for chemicals known as volatile organic compounds.

This determination differed from an Obama administration analysis in 2016, which found that while standards for such compounds also “incidentally” reduce methane emissions, a methane-specific standard would “achieve meaningful GHG [greenhouse gas] reductions and will be an important step towards mitigating the impact of GHG emissions on climate change.”

The EPA also said that its changes would reduce regulatory burdens on industry, particularly small producers. Major oil companies have come out against the changes, saying that regulating methane is important for preventing leaks and protecting the environment.

Methane is the primary component of natural gas and is leaked into the atmosphere during gas production, transportation and storage. Natural gas and petroleum systems are the second-largest source of methane emissions in the country, behind only agriculture.