Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen has joined a coalition threatening to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to live up to its mandate to control methane pollution.
The coalition, which includes 15 other attorneys general, the California Air Resources Board and the city of Chicago, has sent a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt that provides the required notice of its intention to sue for what it sees as the agency’s failure to fulfill its mandatory obligation under the Clean Air Act to control methane emissions from existing oil and natural gas sources and for “unreasonably delaying” the issuance of such controls.
“Methane is one of six major greenhouse gases directly linked to climate change and the Trump Administration continues to neglect its responsibility to establish guidelines for limiting these emissions,” Jepsen said. “We will fight with every legal means possible to establish proper standards to curb climate change pollution.”
In 2012, Connecticut, along with a coalition of other states, notified the EPA of their intent to sue for failing to adopt limits on methane from new and existing oil and gas facilities. In June 2016, the agency finalized standards to control methane emissions from oil and gas operations that were built or substantially modified after September 2015.
Under the federal Clean Air Act, the regulation of those “new” sources triggered a legal requirement for the EPA also to regulate methane emissions from “existing” sources – emission sources in oil and gas operations in existence before September 2015.
In November 2016, the EPA issued an “Information Collection Request” that sought information from oil and gas operators of “critical” use in addressing existing source emissions, including the number and types of equipment at production facilities, and emission sources and control devices or practices. The agency began receiving the requested information beginning in January 2017.
However, on March 2 of this year, Pruitt withdrew the request without any public notice or opportunity for comment. The coalition said that while the information request is not necessary for the EPA to issue the required rule, its revocation has “sent a clear signal that EPA has no intention of meeting its statutory obligation.”
The coalition further argues that the agency’s failure to act since September 2015 to issue controls on methane emissions from existing sources in the oil and gas industry violates the EPA’s nondiscretionary duty under the Clean Air Act and is an “unreasonable delay” in setting such controls.
The coalition’s letter meets a Clean Air Act requirement to provide the EPA with notice of its intention to sue if, within the required notice period of 60 days (for a nondiscretionary duty claim) and 180 days (for an unreasonable delay claim), the agency fails to issue methane standards for existing sources in the oil and gas industry.
Last week, a coalition of 14 states, including Connecticut, filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit against EPA’s actions halting regulation of methane emissions from new sources in the oil and gas industry.
In addition to Connecticut, the coalition includes New York, California, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.