Attorney General James Demands Trump EPA Do Its Job to Control Methane Pollution

EPA Neglects Its Legal Obligation to Curb Methane Emissions From Existing
Oil and Gas Operations, Endangering New Yorkers’ Health and Safety

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James, leading a coalition of 15 attorneys general and the city of Chicago, continued to demand the Trump Administration stop ignoring its legal responsibility to control methane emissions from existing oil and gas facilities. This action is a part of a lawsuit brought in April 2018 against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for violating the federal Clean Air Act by “unreasonably delaying” its mandatory obligation under the Act to control methane emissions from existing oil and gas operations for four years.

The motion, co-led by Attorney General James, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and the Environmental Defense Fund, asks the court to grant a summary judgment in favor of the coalition, declare the EPA’s four-year delay unreasonable, and order the EPA to develop and quickly issue a rule to control methane emissions from existing sources in oil and gas operations.

“As we’ve seen for years, the Trump Administration has long valued polluters over the American people,” said Attorney General James. “The EPA’s role to properly control methane emissions from oil and gas operations is spelled out in the Clean Air Act, clear as day. Its refusal to fulfill its responsibility is unlawful, and it is harmful to public health and the environment. We will continue to push the Trump EPA until it addresses the pollution of our air with the seriousness and urgency it calls for.”

Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas, warming the climate approximately 80-times more than carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe. Oil and gas operations are the largest industrial sources of methane emissions in the U.S. and the second largest industrial sources of overall U.S. greenhouse gas emissions behind electric power plants. In fact, based on data from the EPA, the Environmental Defense Fund estimates that $1.5 billion worth of natural gas, the main component of which is methane, leaks or is intentionally released from the oil and gas supply chain each year. That is enough natural gas released into the atmosphere to heat more than 5 million homes.

Since at least 2016, the Clean Air Act has required the EPA to regulate methane from existing sources in oil and gas operations. At that time, the agency set a course to “swiftly” develop regulations for methane emissions from these sources. Had the agency stayed on course, it would have already issued existing source methane regulations. Instead, in early 2017, then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt abruptly pulled the plug on the process, effectively terminating all agency work to develop these regulations. The coalition argues that the Pruitt Administration stopped the process at the behest of the oil and gas industry and without any consideration of the law or facts, and with no public input.

Joining Attorney General James in the action are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, as well as the city of Chicago.

Since 2017, no other state attorney general’s office has taken more legal actions against the Trump EPA and other federal agencies related to the environment than the Office of the New York Attorney General. New York has taken more than 130 legal actions against the Trump Administration in the areas of safety and toxic chemicals, public lands and wildlife, clean energy and energy efficiency, clean air, clean water, and climate change.

This matter is being handled by Affirmative Section Chief Morgan A. Costello, Senior Counsel for Air Pollution and Climate Change Litigation Michael J. Myers, and Assistant Attorney General Christopher Gore of the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic and Chief Counsel for Federal Initiatives Matthew Colangelo. The Environmental Protection Bureau is part of the Division of Social Justice, led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux, all under the oversight of First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.