BOSTON – Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today joined a coalition of 14 attorneys general, the State of Colorado and the City of Chicago in submitting public comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), calling the agency’s proposed additional stays of a rule that reduces greenhouse gas emissions from new facilities in the oil and natural gas industry illegal and harmful to public health.
The comments argue that the EPA’s attempts to suspend the rules are unlawful because EPA has exceeded its authority under the Clean Air Act, and that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s involvement is improper in light of his prior involvement as the Oklahoma Attorney General in a lawsuit challenging the methane new source rule (2016 Rule).
“Scott Pruitt’s continued attempts to upend these critical clean air protections are not only illegal, but dangerous to the health and well-being of our residents,” said Healey said in a statement. “As state attorneys general, we will hold the Trump administration accountable for rolling back environmental protections and undoing the progress we’ve made to protect our planet.”
The 2016 Rule now in place limits emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas by encouraging the use of technology in leak monitoring at all well sites and compressor stations. The controls required by the rule are also expected to reduce emissions of other pollutants, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants like benzene and formaldehyde.
Methane is a particularly powerful agent of climate change; pound-for-pound, methane warms the climate about 34 times more than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. The oil and natural gas sector is the largest industrial source of methane emissions and accounts for a third of total methane emissions in the United States.
The methane new source rule became effective on Aug. 2, 2016. Shortly after it became effective, the rule was challenged in court by several industry groups.
On June 5, 2017, Administrator Pruitt announced a 90-day administrative stay of the 2016 Rule, arguing that the oil and gas industry had raised objections that were not addressed during the rulemaking process. In response, AG Healey led a coalition of 14 state attorneys general and the City of Chicago in intervening in support of a lawsuit brought by a group of environmental organizations seeking to immediately stop the stay. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals promptly ruled that the 90-day delay was unlawful and vacated it.
On June 16, 2017, Administrator Pruitt published for notice and comment two additional proposed delays of the 2016 Rule, totaling 27 months.
The attorneys general note that if the 2016 Rule is delayed for 27 months, at least 48,138 tons of methane, 13,272 tons of VOCs, and 506 tons of hazardous air pollutants will be emitted that would have that would have been prevented by the Rule.
For years, Massachusetts has played a leading role in the fight to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, including leading a coalition of states, in coordination with numerous environmental groups, in the landmark case of Massachusetts v. EPA. In April 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Massachusetts and concluded that the EPA had authority under existing law to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.
Massachusetts has been involved for almost five years in support of the issuance and maintenance of the 2016 Rule. In December 2012, Massachusetts, New York, and five other states notified EPA of their intent to file suit, asserting that the EPA had not complied with its mandatory duty under the Clean Air Act’s New Source Performance Standards to determine whether it is appropriate to regulate methane pollution from the oil and gas sector.
Joining AG Healey in filing today’s comments are the attorneys general of California, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia. The State of Colorado and the City of Chicago also joined in submitting the comments.
This matter is being handled for Massachusetts by Melissa Hoffer, Chief of AG Healey’s Energy and Environment Bureau, and Assistant Attorney General Peter Mulcahy, of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division.