Greens sue to stop Trump methane rule

Source: By Niina H. Farah, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, September 16, 2020

A coalition of 10 conservation groups is taking the unusual step of asking a federal court to immediately throw out EPA’s rollback of 2016 regulations on methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.

If the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decides not to grant a summary vacatur of the rule, the Environmental Defense Fund and other challengers are asking for the rule to be put on hold, pending the court’s decision in the case.

“Because EPA, without explanation, departed from usual practice and made the Rescission Rule effective immediately, Petitioners now request an emergency stay, and request that this Court stay or vacate the Rule as soon as possible,” the coalition wrote in a complaint yesterday.

The Trump administration’s replacement for Obama-era methane rules eliminates direct regulation of the potent greenhouse gas for new and modified sources in the oil and gas sector and focuses solely on controlling emissions of volatile organic compounds in the production and processing segments of the industry.

The coalition warned that the new standard would lead to 3.3 million metric tons of preventable methane emissions each year.

“The EPA has cooked up a crazy talk rule giving industry a green light to spew millions of tons of heat-trapping methane pollution into the air,” said David Doniger, senior strategic director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s climate and clean energy program, in a statement. NRDC is one of the coalition members.

“That dangerous rollback comes as the West is engulfed in wildfires and the South and East are bracing for more hurricanes — disasters driven by uncontrolled climate pollution,” he added.

The coalition slammed EPA for its efforts to fence off parts of the oil and gas industry by exempting regulation of transmission and storage, and for seeking to avoid requirements to regulate methane for existing oil and gas sources.

The agency was attempting to chop up the industry into as small pieces as possible to allow EPA to say the fragments are too small to merit regulation, Doniger said.

In addition to their suit against the agency’s so-called policy rule involving whether or not EPA should directly regulate methane, the groups filed separate litigation in the D.C. Circuit this week opposing the agency’s “technical rule,” which limits how often the industry has to check for and repair leaks.

“The courts have repeatedly rejected this administration’s attempts to give a free pass to polluters, and we are confident that this will be no exception,” said Andres Restrepo, a staff attorney at the Sierra Club. “That’s why we’re taking Trump and Wheeler to court, and it’s why we expect to win. Our families and communities deserve no less.”

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a challenge to EPA’s revisions from two dozen states and municipalities filed earlier this week in the same court (Greenwire, Sept. 14).

EPA does not comment on pending litigation.