Court Invalidates EPA Rollback of Methane Pollution Protections
WASHINGTON (July 3, 2017) – A federal court today struck down an Environmental Protection Agency attempt to suspend critical protections against leaks of methane and other dangerous air pollution from oil and gas operations. The 2-1 ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals here resulted from the first lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and others against the EPA over of its attempts to undo federal efforts to fight climate change.
The following is a statement from David Doniger, director of NRDC's Climate and Clean Air program.
“This ruling declares EPA's action illegal -- and slams the brakes on Trump Administration's brazen efforts to put the interests of corporate polluters ahead of protecting the public and the environment.
“The ruling recognizes that EPA lacks the authority to simply scrap these critical protections. And it shows the courts are going to enforce the rule of law on health and environment. The Trump Administration’s war on the environment and our health has hit a brick wall.”
NRDC, together with Clean Air Council, Earthworks, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Integrity Project and Sierra Club, filed the lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The groups argued that EPA is violating the Clean Air Act, and asked the court to block EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s “stay” of federal standards that curb leaks of methane and other dangerous air pollutants from new oil and gas wells and other facilities.
Pruitt issued the 90-day stay without any advance public notice or opportunity for public comment, as required by law. A couple weeks later, he proposed to extend the stay for two years. These are the first steps EPA is taking to dismantle methane standards.
Americans overwhelmingly support federal efforts to cut methane pollution, according to polling from the American Lung Association.
The oil and gas sector is the largest U.S. industrial emitter of methane, which is the second-biggest driver of climate change after carbon dioxide. Leaking oil and gas facilities also release smog-forming and cancer-causing chemicals that trigger asthma attacks and increase cancer risks for people living nearby.
EPA’s detection and repair program is crucial to identify and stop leaks, which can occur in very large volumes, of methane and other pollutants from the hundreds of valves, pumps, tanks and other equipment at oil and gas wells, as well as in the pipeline network that brings the gas to market. Finding and fixing these leaks is technically simple, cost-effective, prevents wasted gas, and creates high-paying jobs.
NRDC and others released a report in 2014 that shows EPA can cut methane pollution in half, while dramatically reducing other harmful air pollution at the same time, by issuing federal standards for new and existing infrastructure nationwide.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.