A.G. Schneiderman Joins 14 AGs In Filing Intervention In Lawsuit Against EPA To Secure Reduction In Greenhouse Gas Emissions And Other Air Pollutants

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 20, 2017

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A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN JOINS 14 AGS IN FILING INTERVENTION IN LAWSUIT AGAINST EPA TO SECURE REDUCTION IN GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS AND OTHER AIR POLLUTANTS

Joins Coalition Of States In Filing Motion To Oppose Administrative Stay Of Nationwide Standards To Cut Methane Emissions From New Facilities in the Oil And Natural Gas Industry

NEW YORKAttorney General Eric T., Schneiderman today joined a coalition of 14 attorneys general and the City of Chicago in filing a motion to intervene in a lawsuit against U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt’s actions to halt regulation of leaks of greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful air pollutants from new sources in the oil and gas industry.

The motion to intervene in the case — Clean Air Council v. Pruitt — is in support of a group of environmental organizations seeking to immediately stop the EPA’s unlawful administrative stay of a rule, finalized in 2016 (the 2016 Rule), that would prevent emissions of thousands of tons of the potent greenhouse gas methane, smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and hazardous air pollutants, including benzene and formaldehyde in facilities constructed after September 2015. Administrator Pruitt announced in April 2017 that the EPA would halt the 2016 Rule, and on June 5 implemented a 90-day administrative stay of the Rule’s key leak detection and repair requirements, along with an order to reconsider aspects of the 2016 Rule, which has been in place for nearly one year.

“This is just the latest shameful example of the Trump administration siding with the oil and gas industry at the expense of public health,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “As I have made clear, my office will continue to fight back and ensure that the Trump administration upholds its legal responsibility to protect our state’s environment and the public health of New Yorkers.”

The motion to intervene, led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, includes the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington along with the City of Chicago.

The 2016 Rule requires oil and gas companies to monitor sources of emissions at well sites and compressor stations constructed after September 2015 in order to detect air pollutant leaks and repair them at regular intervals.

According to testimony filed by scientific experts in the case, during the 90-day term of the administrative stay alone, more than 5,300 tons of methane, 1,475 tons of VOCs, and 56 tons of hazardous air pollutants will be emitted that would otherwise have been prevented had the EPA under Administrator Pruitt not put the brakes on the 2016 Rule.

Administrator Pruitt and the EPA have signaled that they will seek to further stay the 2016 Rule for an additional 27 months. If those further stays are implemented, the experts predict at least 48,000 additional tons of methane, 13,000 tons of VOCs, and over 500 tons of hazardous air pollutants will be emitted that would have been prevented by the Rule.

In December 2012, Massachusetts, New York, and five other states notified the EPA of their intent to file suit, asserting that the EPA had not complied with its mandatory duty under the Clean Air Act’s New Source Performance Standards to determine whether it is appropriate to regulate methane pollution from new and existing facilities in the oil and gas sector. Several states, including Massachusetts, also submitted comments on the EPA’s technical white papers regarding sources of methane emissions in the oil and gas sector, including fugitive emissions, commented on the EPA’s proposed 2016 Rule, and intervened in litigation to defend the final 2016 Rule.

Methane is a particularly powerful agent of climate change; pound-for-pound, methane warms the climate about thirty-four times more than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and on a 20-year time frame, has about eighty-six times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. According to the EPA, the oil and gas sector is the largest emitter of methane in the U.S., accounting for a third of total U.S. methane emissions.