Statement From A.G. Schneiderman Defending EPA’s Regulations To Cut Methane Emissions From Oil And Gas Industry

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 15, 2016

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STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN DEFENDING EPA’S REGULATIONS TO CUT METHANE EMISSIONS FROM OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued the following statement opposing a challenge to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s regulations to reduce emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas methane from new and modified sources in the oil and gas industry. The Attorney General is part of a 9-state coalition that today filed a motion to intervene in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The oil and gas industry is the country’s largest source of emissions of methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas.  Controlling these emissions is essential to combatting climate change. The regulations adopted by EPA in May reflect the ready-availability of proven, effective, and affordable measures for reducing methane emissions from new and modified sources in the oil and gas industry. They also fulfill EPA’s legal responsibility under the Clean Air Act to limit the industry’s methane emissions from these sources.

We can no longer afford to disregard the overwhelming evidence of climate change, and the threat that it poses to our families, communities, and economy.  My office is proud to stand with our fellow coalition members in aggressively defending these important controls on climate change pollution.

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, transmission, and distribution.  The coalition charged that because EPA 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 violated the Clean Air Act by failing 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. 

EPA finalized regulations on methane emissions from new and modified equipment in May 2016.

The coalition of states that Attorney General Schneiderman is joining today in defense of these regulations includes California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont, and the City of Chicago.