EPA's plan to limit methane pollution draws lawsuits

By Sara Wyant

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 4, 2016 - At least fifteen states have filed lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to try and block the agency's rule on methane emissions in the oil patch.

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The lawsuits ask the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to review the EPA's rule regulating methane emissions from new, reconstructed and modified oil and gas wells that use fracking, saying the agency is exceeding its statutory authority.

The agency's final rule finalizes amendments to the new source performance standards in the Clean Air Act, forming new compliance schedules for the control of volatile organic compounds. The rule, for the first time, also establishes emission standards limitations on greenhouse gases, specifically methane, and creates new categories of oil and gas facilities.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called the agency's rules “a gross demonstration of federal overreach” and accused regulators of failing to consider the “steep costs” for oil and gas producers to comply.

In addition to Texas, the lawsuit includes officials from Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

When announcing the final rule in mid-May, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said the new rules will help the U.S. cut emissions from the oil and gas sector, reducing emissions by 11 million tons per year of CO2 equivalent by 2025.

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Environmentalists largely welcomed the rule as a positive first step, but some groups asked for additional restrictions.

In a statement, the National Wildlife Federation described the rule as a “common-sense, cost-effective rules to curb methane pollution and waste from new and modified sources of oil and gas operations. 

“Methane pollution poses a direct threat to wildlife - and capturing leaking emissions will help companies make more money. That sort of common-sense, win-win solution deserves bipartisan support. Methane is a super-pollutant - when compared with carbon dioxide, methane has over 80 times the impact on climate change over the course of a 20 year period,” said Collin O'Mara president and chief executive officer of the National Wildlife Federation.

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