20 States Sue Over Trump Rollback of Methane Regulations

The states argue a new policy amendment arbitrarily eliminates pollution controls on the transmission and storage of oil and natural gas, while abandoning methane regulation entirely. 

The sun shines through clouds above a shale gas drilling site in St. Mary’s, Pa., on March 12, 2020. The Trump administration is undoing Obama-era rules designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas fields and pipelines. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

WASHINGTON (CN) — With natural disasters battering the country, 20 states and the District of Columbia sued the Trump administration on Monday challenging a rule they claim eliminates regulations on hazardous pollutants spewing from the oil and natural gas industry. 

California led the lawsuit filed in the D.C. Circuit against the Environmental Protection Agency, claiming the rollbacks will hike methane emissions by 850,000 tons by 2030, as well as other hazardous air pollutants at varying increased levels.

The state’s attorney general Xavier Becerra said the Trump administration is ignoring the reality of climate change while fires burn in the Golden State, the South braces for floods and the East prepares for calamitous hurricanes. 

“At this critical juncture in history, we need leaders who step up and propose solutions. Instead, we get President Trump’s version of the EPA. We won’t let the EPA gut critical pollution emissions standards and allow super pollutants like methane to destroy our atmosphere,” Becerra said in a statement.

New York Attorney General Letitia James joined Becerra in condemning the EPA for easing up on regulations of methane emissions and other harmful pollutants. 

“These dangerous rollbacks will only accelerate the already devastating impacts of climate change and I won’t stand for it,” James said on Twitter

The lawsuit seeks a review of a final rule put forward Monday titled “Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources Review.”

The majority-blue states suing the EPA argue the new agency standard unravels 2016 regulations that had for the first time set limits on methane emission from new, reconstructed and modified sources in the oil and natural gas sector. 

They argue the policy amendment to the 2016 standards violates the Clean Air Act by arbitrarily eliminating pollution controls on the transmission and storage of oil and natural gas, while abandoning methane regulation entirely. 

A spokesperson for the EPA declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Becerra said Monday that the state coalition also plans to challenge in court a second policy amendment to the 2016 standards that has yet to be released, arguing it rolls back leak detection and monitoring requirements. 

Several of the states joining the lawsuit have repeatedly sued the Trump administration for violating the Clean Air Act, including alleged failures to regulate air pollutants from power plants and motor vehicles

Legal backlash also followed President Donald Trump recently loosening the reins on an array of public health and environmental protection mandates, claiming industries would struggle to comply with them during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The states joining California in the lawsuit filed Monday are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

The District of Columbia, as well as the city and county of Denver and the city of Chicago, are also plaintiffs in the case.

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