- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
Media Contact for AG Healey Calls on EPA to Stop Illegal Rollback of Methane Regulations
Boston — Attorney General Maura Healey today joined a coalition of 20 state attorneys general and the City of Chicago in calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to withdraw its illegal attempt to gut regulations that limit emissions of methane and other harmful pollutants from new, reconstructed and modified sources in the oil and natural gas industry. The sector is the largest industrial source of emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes significantly to climate change.
“The climate change deniers running the Trump Administration are ignoring federal law and choosing the interests of the oil and gas industry over protecting our residents and the environment,” AG Healey said. “EPA needs to do its job and protect our climate from pollution by withdrawing this dangerous plan.”
In comments filed with EPA today, the coalition contends that the agency’s unlawful proposal to rescind methane regulation from the 2016 rule for new and modified equipment in the oil and gas sector will threaten public health and the environment by increasing emissions of climate-warming methane, as well as smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and other hazardous air pollutants, including benzene and formaldehyde. Exposure to VOCs, benzyne, and formaldehyde can lead to serious illnesses particularly for children, older adults and those suffering from chronic lung disease and asthma. EPA’s own estimates show that the proposal will increase methane emissions and VOCs by hundreds of thousands of tons through 2025.
Methane is a particularly powerful agent of climate change; pound-for-pound, it warms the climate about 34 times more than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and, on a 20-year timeframe, it has about 86 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.
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, preventing emissions of harmful pollutants and saving valuable fuel. The rule is expected to reduce 300,000 tons of methane, 150,000 tons of VOCs, and 1,900 tons of hazardous air pollutants in 2020 alone. The rule will protect the environment and save businesses money with a net benefit of $35 million in 2020 and $170 million in 2025.
The 2016 rule was the product of years of deliberation and preparation to regulate methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. The Massachusetts AG’s Office has been advocating for the issuance and continued implementation of the 2016 rule for nearly a decade. In 2012, Massachusetts and six other states notified EPA of their intent to sue the agency for not complying with its mandatory duty under the Clean Air Act to determine whether and how to regulate methane from the oil and gas sector. Massachusetts was one of several states that commented in support of the EPA’s proposed 2016 Rule and intervened in litigation to defend the final 2016 Rule.
AG Healey was also part of a multistate coalition that submitted comments in December 2018 in opposition to an earlier attempt by the EPA to weaken aspects of the current regulations.
Today’s comments argue that the new proposal is not supported by factual evidence and violates the federal Clean Air Act. According to the comments, EPA has failed to justify the agency’s decision to reverse course and gut the regulations with extensive evidence supporting the 2016 rule. The comments also argue that the proposal is a blatant attempt by EPA to avoid its statutory duty to regulate methane emissions from existing sources in the oil and gas sector, which are responsible for the majority of the sector’s emissions, and that EPA failed to consider the implications of the agency’s proposal for regulation of existing sources.
Joining AG Healey in filing today’s comments are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, as well as the City of Chicago, the City and County of Denver, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
This case is being handled by Melissa A. Hoffer, Chief of AG Healey’s Energy & Environment Bureau, and Special Assistant Attorney General Megan Herzog of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division.