The following is a press release from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office.
BOSTON -Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today, December 18, joined a coalition of 13 states and the City of Chicago in calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to withdraw its proposal to weaken regulations that limit emissions of potent greenhouse gases and other harmful pollutants from new sources in the oil and gas industry.
In comments filed with the EPA today, the coalition argues that the agency’s unlawful proposal to rescind the 2016 methane new source rule will harm public health and the environment by increasing emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane, smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and hazardous air pollutants, including benzene and formaldehyde, from new and modified equipment in the oil and gas sector. The coalition also argues that the proposal violates the federal Clean Air Act and is not supported by factual evidence.
“This latest action by the Trump Administration is another attack on the environment and the health of our residents for the benefit of the oil and gas industry,” Healey said. “We will continue to work with our state partners to hold the EPA to its legal obligations to control dangerous pollutants.”
The 2016 rule was the product of years of deliberation and preparation to regulate methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.
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 86 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.
The 2016 rule requires oil and gas companies to monitor sources of emissions at well sites and compressor stations constructed after September 2015 in order to detect air pollutant leaks and repair them at regular intervals, preventing emissions of harmful pollutants and saving valuable fuel. The rule is expected to reduce 300,000 tons of methane, 150,000 tons of VOCs, and 1,900 tons of hazardous air pollutants in 2020 alone. The rule will protect the environment and save businesses money with a net benefit of $35 million in 2020 and $170 million in 2025.
The EPA’s proposal would substantially relax the standards that require companies to monitor and repair equipment and sites to prevent leaks of methane and other pollutants. The proposal is estimated to increase methane emissions and smog-forming volatile organic compounds by hundreds of thousands of tons through 2025. These emissions contribute significantly to the growing and existential threat of climate change, and endanger public health, as recently highlighted by the federal government’s own National Climate Assessment report issued last month.
Today’s comments contend that the EPA provides no concrete basis for its proposal and cites only unspecified uncertainty about the 2016 rule’s effectiveness. The comments also argue that the EPA relied on an inaccurate and inappropriate metric for calculating the social cost of methane, arbitrarily skewing the cost-benefit analysis.
Massachusetts has been involved for almost six 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 in support of the EPA’s proposed 2016 Rule, and intervened in litigation to defend the final 2016 Rule.
In June 2017, AG Healey led a coalition of 14 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 EPA’s unlawful delay of the 2016 rule. In July 2017, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the agency’s stay of the rule. The EPA published its reconsideration proposal in October 2018.
Joining AG Healey in filing today’s comments are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, as well as the City of Chicago.
This case is being handled by Melissa A. Hoffer, Chief of AG Healey’s Energy & Environment Bureau, and Assistant Attorney General Turner Smith, of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division.