A coalition of attorneys general (AG) from across the country filed comments Friday opposing a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal to loosen Obama-era methane emission standards for the oil and gas industry.
"Gutting a common-sense rule that protects the health of our environment and of our citizens is contrary to the mission and purpose of the EPA," said Maryland AG Brian Frosh. "EPA and the Trump administration have again ignored clear evidence of harm to our natural resources and our communities while siding with corporate polluters."
EPA proposed the changes in August, saying they "would remove regulatory duplication and save the industry millions of dollars in compliance costs each year -- while maintaining health and environmental regulations..." The proposed changes were a result of EPA's review of the 2016 New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), which was conducted in response to President Trump's executive order 13783.
In its primary proposal, EPA would remove compressor stations, pneumatic controllers, underground storage vessels and other sources in the transmission and storage segment of the oil and natural gas industry from regulation.
The proposal would also rescind emissions limits for methane, from the production and processing segments of the industry, but would keep emissions limits from ozone-forming volatile organic compounds (VOC). Those sources include well completions, pneumatic pumps, pneumatic controllers, gathering and boosting compressors, natural gas processing plants and storage tanks.
A second, alternative proposal would rescind methane emissions limitations without removing from regulation any sources from the transmission and storage segment.
The proposals are in addition to a September 2018 technical action that proposed targeted improvements to help streamline implementation, reduce duplication of EPA and state requirements, and decrease unnecessary burdens on energy producers, EPA said.
In comments filed in the closing hours of public comment on EPA's proposal, the coalition argued that the rule changes are unlawful because EPA disregarded its previous conclusions "about the substantial adverse impacts of methane emissions from the oil and natural gas industry, the largest domestic source of climate-warming methane."
EPA also failed to justify its decision to abandon the regulation of methane, the coalition said. In addition, the proposal "arbitrarily eliminates pollution controls from the transmission and storage segment of the oil and natural gas sector, in direct contravention of EPA's prior factual and legal findings."
In addition to Frosh, the letter was signed by the AGs of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia, as well as the city of Chicago, the city and county of Denver, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Several industry groups, including the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and the American Petroleum Institute, have voiced support for the EPA proposals.
IPAA endorsed the changes "because it would be far more cost effective with regard to the breadth of emissions sources," according to Lee Fuller, executive vice president. "IPAA has consistently believed and recommended that a VOC-based program is the appropriate pathway for regulating natural gas and oil production emissions."