BOSTON – Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today, July 5, issued the following statement in response to a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia vacating U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt’s unlawful actions to suspend regulations of leaks of methane and other harmful air pollutants from new sources in the oil and gas industry.
“This week, the Court dealt a blow to Scott Pruitt’s unrelenting attack on our country’s clean air protections,” Healey said in a statement. “It’s time for the EPA to prioritize the future of this planet over the interest of the fossil fuel industry. Every time Scott Pruitt tries to strip rules that protect the health and safety of our residents, we will be there to hold him accountable.”
Last month, AG Healey led a coalition of 14 attorneys general and the City of Chicago, in intervening in support of the petition in Clean Air Council v. Pruitt, which was brought by a group of environmental organizations seeking to immediately stop the EPA’s unlawful administrative stay of the rule, finalized in 2016, that would prevent emissions of thousands of tons of the potent greenhouse gas methane, smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and hazardous air pollutants, including benzene and formaldehyde from facilities constructed after September 2015.
In April, Administrator Pruitt announced the EPA would halt the 2016 Rule, and on June 5 implemented a 90-day administrative stay of the Rule’s key leak detection and repair requirements, along with an order to reconsider aspects of the 2016 Rule.
Healey was joined in the motion to intervene by the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, and the City of Chicago.
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. Several states, including Massachusetts, also submitted comments on the EPA’s technical white papers regarding sources of methane emissions in the oil and gas sector, including fugitive emissions, commented on the EPA’s proposed 2016 Rule, and intervened in litigation to defend the final 2016 Rule. The case is currently pending in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
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.
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, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and on a 20-year timeframe, has about eighty-six times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. According to the EPA, the oil and gas sector is the largest emitter of methane in the U.S., accounting for a third of total U.S. methane emissions.