AG Healey Files Intervention in Lawsuit Against EPA to Secure Reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Other Air Pollutants
Leads 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
BOSTON – Attorney General Maura Healey today led a coalition of 14 attorneys general and the City of Chicago in filing a motion in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia 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 from 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.
“While Massachusetts continues to be a leader in addressing the threat of climate change and air pollution that harms our residents, Administrator Pruitt wants to tear down the federal environmental standards we need to protect public health and safety,” AG Healey said. “This action by the EPA will once again benefit powerful fossil fuel interests at the expense of residents and taxpayers, who pay the price in impaired health and foot the bill for the increasing costs of responding to climate change. I am working with my colleagues across the country to take immediate action to defend these critical regulations and ensure that the EPA does not roll back the progress we’ve made to protect our planet.”
Joining AG Healey in today’s motion to intervene are 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.
For years, Massachusetts has played a leading role in the fight to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, including leading a coalition of states, in coordination with numerous environmental groups, in the landmark case of Massachusetts v. EPA. In April 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Massachusetts and concluded that the EPA had authority under existing law to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.
Massachusetts has been involved for almost five years in support of the issuance and maintenance of the 2016 Rule. In December 2012, Massachusetts, New York, and five other states notified 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 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. The case is currently pending in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
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 timeframe, 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.
This case is being led by Melissa A. Hoffer, Chief of AG Healey’s Energy & Environment Bureau, and Assistant Attorney General, Peter C. Mulcahy.