North Dakota on Monday became the first state to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its three new final rules governing methane emissions from oil and gas industry sources.
The complaint, filed by North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem in U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, says the state “seeks a determination by this court that the EPA final rule challenged herein exceeds EPA’s statutory authority, goes beyond the bounds established the the United States Constitution and is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and not in accordance with law."
EPA unveiled the three rules last May (see Shale Daily, May 12). Within days, Lynn Helms, director of North Dakota's Department of Mineral Resources, expressed concern that the state had just 60 days to navigate the 600-page rule and determine if it needed to take the federal agency to court (see Shale Daily, May 17).
The rules, collectively updates to the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), are designed to reduce methane, volatile organic compounds (VOC) and toxic air pollutants. The agency said its actions would help the Obama administration meet its goal of slashing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40-45% from 2012 levels by the year 2025.
Also last May, EPA unveiled the first draft of an information collection request (ICR) that will legally require oil and gas companies to provide information on a broad range of topics, including the potential and actual configuration of emissions controls, and the details and costs associated with their deployment. At the time he voiced concern over the rules, Helms said operators in North Dakota would begin receiving ICRs as part of the regulatory process.
According to EPA, the NSPS will build upon VOC emission reduction requirements for new oil and gas wells that the agency first unveiled in April 2012 (see Daily GPI, April 19, 2012). Those requirements called for a two-phase process to reduce VOCs: requiring flaring followed by "green completions," a term that means deploying equipment to capture and sell natural gas emissions that are otherwise lost.
EPA said it expects the NSPS will reduce 510,000 short tons of methane in 2025, which is the equivalent of reducing 11 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). The rules are also expected to reduce other pollutants, including 210,000 tons of VOCs and 3,900 tons of air toxics, in the year 2025.
The case is State of North Dakota v. EPA (No. 16-1242).