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Citing Climate Change, Democrat AGs Sue Obama's EPA over Methane Emissions

A coalition of seven states prepares to sue the bureau for failing to regulate oil and gas industries

Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Despite the known and devastating impacts of methane in the atmosphere, the EPA has failed to regulate known emitter industries. (Photo: Bodhack / Flickr)

The climate talks at Doha are only the latest in a series of recent failures by US leadership to take a strong stance against greenhouse gas emissions.

Now, a coalition of Democrat attorney generals from seven states in the northeast—citing the clear and present danger of climate change—are going after the Obama Administration for their insufficient regulation of the oil and gas industry's known and devastating methane emissions. 

On Tuesday, the states sent a joint letter to the Environmental Projection Agency (EPA) announcing their intent to sue the bureau for failing to address the fossil fuel industry’s substantial methane emissions under the bureau's “New Source Performance Standards.”

The EPA's own findings conclude that methane emissions contribute to global warming about 25 times more than carbon dioxide, with known impacts including “increased air and ocean temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, melting and thawing of global glaciers and ice, increasingly severe weather events—such as hurricanes of greater intensity—and sea level rise.”

A press release by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, who is leading the suit, says that the industry is the single largest source of man-made methane emissions in the U.S—contributing the equivalent yearly climate change pollution of 64 million cars. The statement (pdf) continues:

We simply can’t continue to ignore the evidence of climate change or the catastrophic threat that unabated greenhouse gas pollution poses to our families, our communities and our economy.

While it is clear that methane from oil and natural gas development contributes substantially to climate change pollution, regulators have failed to require the industry to use available and cost-effective measures to control these emissions. Today, our coalition is putting EPA on notice that we are prepared to sue to force action on curbing climate change pollution from the oil and gas industry.

Joining New York, the other states involved in the action—all led by Democratic AGs—include Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont. GOP strongholds and known drilling states, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio did not join the campaign.

In August, the EPA published a new set of rules regulating the industry and said they would review the strength of those rules moving forward. Critics at the time charged the rules were grossly inadequate in setting standards for methane emissions.

Now, according to the coalition, the EPA has missed an important legal deadline by which they were expected to determine whether additional regulations are necessary.

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