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Post date: May 13 2016

Statement From A.G. Schneiderman On EPA's Action To Fight Climate Change By Cutting Methane Emissions From Oil And Gas Industry

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued the following statement today on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s announcement of final regulations to reduce emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas methane from new and modified sources in the oil and gas industry:

“Reducing emissions is crucial to combatting climate change.  My office and other states have urged EPA to fulfill its legal responsibility under the Clean Air Act to limit methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, the world’s largest industrial source of methane emissions.   The regulations finalized yesterday provide necessary and appropriate controls on methane emissions from new and modified sources in the oil and gas industry.  These regulations – along with regulations EPA announced in March that it would develop for controlling emissions of methane from existing sources – are key to staunching methane emissions from oil and gas development.  We applaud EPA for acting on its responsibility under the Clean Air Act to reduce methane emissions and urge the Agency to move forward promptly to address methane emissions from existing sources.” 

Background

In December 2012, Attorney General Schneiderman, leading a coalition of seven states, notified the federal Environmental Protection Agency of his intent to sue the agency for violating the Clean Air Act by failing to adopt limits on methane emissions from equipment used in oil and gas production, processing, and transmission.  The coalition charged that because EPA has determined that methane is a powerful climate change pollutant emitted by the industry in large quantities, and because affordable methods for controlling these emissions were then available, EPA had violated the Clean Air Act when it failed to directly limit methane emissions in the agency’s 2012 updates to air pollution standards for the oil and gas industry. EPA’s decision at the time not to directly limit the emissions left the vast majority of methane emissions from oil and natural gas operations unregulated.

In the summer of 2013, President Obama issued a Climate Action Plan that, among other things, committed his administration to developing a comprehensive, interagency strategy to reduce methane emissions. That strategy, which was released in March 2014, committed EPA to a number of activities, including assessing significant sources of methane and other emissions from the oil and gas sector, soliciting input from independent experts through a series of technical white papers, and determining how best to pursue further methane reductions from these sources. Attorney General Schneiderman’s coalition filed comments on the EPA white papers advocating for the direct regulation of methane from new and existing oil and gas development and delivery equipment, and has held the filing of the lawsuit in abeyance due to EPA’s actions considering the matter.

In September 2015, EPA proposed regulations to require new and modified equipment to meet standards to limit their methane emissions. Attorney General Schneiderman and several other Attorneys General submitted comments on the proposed limits on new and modified sources, and further urged EPA to move forward expeditiously with regulation of existing sources, which would be mandated under the Clean Air Act once the rule on new and modified sources is finalized.  The regulations announced yesterday finalize these regulations on methane emissions from new and modified equipment.

In March, EPA announced it would move forward with regulations on existing sources of methane emissions in oil and gas operations. Because existing sources comprise a lion’s share of methane emissions from these operations (an estimated 90 percent by 2018), an existing source rule is necessary to address the Agency’s legal duty and to reach the Agency’s announced target reduction of 40-45% less methane emissions by 2025 compared to 2012 levels.