The Trump Administration Gives Polluters Another Free Pass, So We’re Suing

The EPA’s move to deregulate methane leaks puts communities across the country at risk—and it’s against the law.
Credit: Nik Zane/Flickr

The EPA’s move to deregulate methane leaks puts communities across the country at risk—and it’s against the law.

Late last week, on the heels of the president’s reckless decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it is rolling back Obama-era safeguards against methane pollution. The agency’s administrator, Scott Pruitt, also put a 90-day hold on federal leak detection and repair requirements—without any advanced notice or opportunity for public comment, as required by law—and indicated he would soon propose to make that hold indefinite.

Today, NRDC and our partners are suing the Trump administration to block this dangerous development. It is the first lawsuit against the EPA over its rollbacks of efforts to fight climate change. “In its haste to do favors for its polluter cronies, the Trump EPA has broken the law,” senior attorney Meleah Geertsma said.

Methane is the second-biggest driver of climate change after carbon dioxide, and leaks from oil and gas wells, which are prevalent throughout the United States, release dangerous smog-forming and cancer-causing chemicals. We don’t need to look any further than the catastrophic four-month-long leak at Aliso Canyon in Southern California to understand the dire threat that nearby communities face.

Leak detection and repair is critical to curbing methane pollution, and finding and fixing the leaks is simple and cost-effective. A 2014 NRDC report detailed how the EPA could easily cut methane pollution from the oil and gas industry by half—saving enough gas to heat three million homes—by issuing readily available control measures.

Instead, the Trump administration has, in disregard for our global climate crisis, once again decided to side with polluters and strip away critical protections for people across the country. 

“The Trump administration does not have unlimited power to put people’s health in jeopardy with unchecked, unilateral executive action like this,” Geertsma said. “Stopping methane leaks is a no-brainer—avoiding wasted gas, creating jobs, fighting climate change, and cutting cancer-causing pollution all at once. We will not stand for this blatant polluter giveaway.”

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