Administrator Pruitt, Oil and Gas Trade Associations Support Dangerous Loophole for Air Pollution Control Measures

Agency, Allies Defend Unprecedented Decision to Allow Harmful Oil and Gas Pollution, Bypass Public Input

June 15, 2017
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396,
Stacy MacDiarmid, 512-658-2265,

(Washington, D.C. – June 15, 2017) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a group of oil and gas trade associations today filed responses in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit supporting EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s controversial decision to suspend vital air pollution safeguards for the oil and gas industry with far reaching consequences for pollution from thousands of wells across the country. (EDF has published a searchable, interactive database identifying the locations of the affected wells.)

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and other health and environmental organizations took legal action to block Administrator Pruitt’s suspension immediately after it was formally announced. The suspension puts the health of children and families across America at risk, and was put into effect without getting public input or considering the harmful impacts it would have on communities. 

“EPA’s unprecedented loophole for oil and gas pollution allows more dangerous benzene, methane and smog-forming contaminants in the air that our children and families breathe,” said EDF Lead Attorney Peter Zalzal. “It is an affront to fundamental fairness and to our nation’s clean air laws that EPA would suspend bedrock safeguards limiting oil and gas pollution – that even it admits imperils our children’s health – and do so without public input.”

EPA filed a brief today in response to the challenge by EDF and others. A group of oil and gas trade associations – including the American Petroleum Institute, Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, Texas Oil and Gas Association, Independent Petroleum Association of America, and GPA Midstream Association – also filed a brief in support of suspending these protections. 

“This action is more evidence that the worst elements of the oil and gas industry are running amok within industry trade associations and now have an administration only too happy to throw common sense out the window in service of the lowest common denominator within the industry,” said Mark Brownstein, Vice President of Climate and Energy at EDF. “This is shilling for the laggards, pure and simple.”

EPA suspended the leak detection and repair standards – the cornerstone of 2016 clean air standards designed to reduce methane and smog-forming pollution from the oil and gas industry. The standards require oil and gas companies to monitor their well sites and compressor stations at regular intervals to detect leaks of air pollutants, and to repair those leaks promptly. The protections apply to more than 18,000 wells in 22 states, and that number will swiftly rise as new wells in communities across the country are excluded from basic clean air measures. 

Delaying the standards will allow smog-forming volatile organic compounds, cancer-causing benzene and dangerous methane pollution to be emitted in extensive quantities with imminent and irreversible harms to public health and the environment.

EPA’s own announcement of the stay recognized that it may make American children sick, but argued that more illness for only two years is acceptable. Compliance with the standards over the next two years would cost less than one percent of what the industry spends every year to develop new oil and gas resources.  

EDF and other health and environmental organizations will file their rebuttal briefs on Tuesday.

You can find more information – including all legal documents – on EDF’s website.

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