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To Block Trump's Gutting of Methane Regulation, Coalition of State and Local Governments Sues EPA

"We need leaders who step up and propose solutions. Instead, we get President Trump's version of the EPA."

A gas flare is seen at an oil well site on July 26, 2013 outside Williston, North Dakota. (Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

 

A coalition of 19 states and six municipalities Monday sued the Environmental Protection Agency over its rollback of methane emissions standards. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the filing ahead of a planned visit by President Donald Trump to the Golden State.

"The West is on fire, the South floods, the Midwest gets ripped apart by super-tornadoes, and the East prepares for calamitous hurricanes," Becerra said in a statement Monday. "The Trump administration ignores the dire reality of the climate crisis at our peril. 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," said Becerra.

Former coal lobbyist and current EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced changes to federal regulations in August, and environmental advocates vowed to challenge the move in court.

According to reporting from the New York Times last month:

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The EPA's new methane rule eliminates federal requirements that oil and gas companies must install technology to detect and fix methane leaks from wells, pipelines, and storage sites.

EPA officials say the new, weaker methane rule is needed to free the oil and gas industry from what they call crippling regulations at a moment when companies are suffering from plummeting prices and falling demand driven by a sharp global economic slowdown. The weakening of the rule, however, has been in the works for more than a year.

The lawsuit targets two policy amendments announced by Wheeler in August. 

"Methane is a super-pollutant up to 87 times more potent than carbon dioxide in its ability to trap heat over a 20-year timeframe," Becerra said. "According to the EPA's own estimates, the rollback of these standards will increase emissions of methane by 850,000 tons between 2021 and 2030—or 19,000,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent—accelerating the impacts of climate change and threatening public health, particularly to children, older adults, and those suffering from chronic lung disease and asthma."

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia, as well as the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the City and County of Denver, and the City of Chicago joined Becerra in filing the lawsuit. 

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