States Join Fight to Restore Air-Pollution Controls

WASHINGTON (CN) – Eyeing a push in the D.C. Circuit to restore federal limits on industrial air pollution, a coalition of 14 attorneys general and the city of Chicago filed a motion to intervene Tuesday.

The Clean Air Council and five other environmental groups brought the underlying petition on June 5, the same day that the Environmental Protection Agency finalized its administrative stay of year-old pollution safeguards instituted by the Obama administration.

One of several Obama-era regulations that have come under fire by President Donald Trump, the EPA safeguards at issue requires oil and gas companies to monitor sources of greenhouse gas emissions at well sites and compressor stations constructed after September 2015, with the objective of detecting methane leaks before they do too much damage.

The rule had been in effect just 10 months when Trump-appointed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt suspended the rule until Aug. 31, 2017.

The Clean Air Council wants the 2016 rule restored, and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is leading the charge of states supporting this move.

“Administrator Pruitt wants to tear down the federal environmental standards we need to protect public health and safety,” Healey said in a statement Tuesday. “This action by the EPA will once again benefit powerful fossil fuel interests at the expense of residents and taxpayers, who pay the price in impaired health and foot the bill for the increasing costs of responding to climate change.”

The move also has support from the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, Vermont and the District of Columbia.

“The state intervenors have a demonstrated, legally protected interest as sovereigns in protecting their territory and residents from harmful pollution, including greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change and its attendant, potentially catastrophic harms,” their motion states.

In their underlying petition, the environmentalists cite scientific expert testimony that estimates Pruitt’s stay will permit the emission of more than 5,300 tons of methane, 1,475 tons of volatile organic compounds, and 56 tons of hazardous air pollutants by September.

Pruitt and the EPA have signaled that they will seek to keep the 2016 Rule on hold for an additional 27 months. If those further stays are implemented, the experts predict at least 48,000 additional tons of methane, 13,000 tons of VOCs, and over 500 tons of hazardous air pollutants will be emitted that would have been prevented by the 2016 rule.

A representative for the EPA did not respond to an email seeking comment.

This motion for intervention is led by Melissa Hoffer, chief of Healey’s Energy & Environment Bureau, and Assistant Attorney General Peter Mulcahy.

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