Led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a coalition of 15 Attorneys General filed a lawsuit on Thursday against EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for ignoring the agency’s legal duty to control emissions of methane. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by the Attorneys General of New York, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, and the City of Chicago.
“Over and over again, the Trump administration has put polluters before the health and safety of New Yorkers,” stated New York Attorney General Schneiderman. “The EPA has a clear legal duty to control methane pollution from oil and gas operations, one its largest sources. Its continued refusal to do so is not only illegal, but threatens our public health and environment, and squanders savings of over $100 million annually. Our coalition has made clear: when the Trump administration thumbs their nose at the law and endangers New Yorkers, we’ll see them in court.”
Based on EPA data, the Environmental Defense Fund estimates that roughly $1.5 billion worth of natural gas – enough to heat over 5 million homes – leaks or is intentionally released from the oil and gas supply chain each year. In November 2016, EPA issued an “Information Collection Request” that sought information from oil and gas operators of “critical” use in addressing existing sources, including the number and types of equipment at production facilities, and emission sources and control devices or practices.
But on March 2, 2017, newly-confirmed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt withdrew the Information Collection Request without any public notice.
“On June 29, 2017, Plaintiffs sent EPA notice of intent to sue for EPA’s failure to establish guidelines for standards of performance for methane emissions from existing oil and natural gas sources,” the complaint states. “The letter provided 180-day notice for an action to compel agency action unreasonably delayed under section 304(a).
“More than 180 days have passed since the Plaintiffs sent the notice letters, and EPA still has not completed its mandatory obligation to issue guidelines for the control of methane emissions from existing oil and natural gas sources to remedy its unreasonable delay in issuing such guidelines.”
According to the EPA, methane accounted for about 10 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in 2015. Pound for pound, the comparative impact of methane is more than 25 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period.