Greens take 2nd shot at Trump methane rule

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

Environmental organizations are calling for a federal court to temporarily block EPA’s rule easing standards for checking and repairing leaks from the oil and gas sector.

The coalition of green groups previously made an unsuccessful bid to freeze the Trump administration’s rollback of an Obama-era “policy rule” regulating methane from the sector and limiting emissions controls for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to the production and processing segments of the industry (E&E News PM, Oct. 27).

Attorneys for the Environmental Defense Fund and other groups argued Friday that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit should halt EPA’s “technical rule,” which is the second part of regulations issued this year to reverse 2016 pollution controls finalized under President Obama.

“Hundreds of thousands of people live within half a mile of oil and gas facilities that will be able to emit more dangerous pollution if EPA’s rollback goes forward,” EDF senior attorney Rosalie Winn said in a statement. “Once emitted, these pollutants cannot be captured and the harms they cause cannot be reversed.”

Under the new rule, which eased standards for limiting upstream VOC emissions, EPA set a quarterly to semiannual review for the oil and gas sector. It also exempted all controls on low-production wells that produce less than 15 barrels per day.

The environmental challengers asked the D.C. Circuit to temporarily block EPA’s reduction in leak monitoring frequency for compressor stations and halt the exemption for the low-production wells.

They argued that if the rule were permitted to stay in place, it would allow for an extra 21,000 tons of VOCs in 2021 alone.