(Washington, D.C. – October 27, 2020) The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit established a swift briefing schedule today in the case challenging the Trump EPA’s rollback of vital protections against oil and gas methane pollution. A divided three-judge panel also declined to issue a stay of that rollback while it considers the case, with Judge Rogers indicating she would have granted the stay requests.
“Protecting human health and the environment from oil and gas pollution is one of the most important solutions for our nation to ensure healthier, longer lives for the millions afflicted by this dangerous pollution,” said Peter Zalzal, lead attorney for Environmental Defense Fund, which is a party to the case. “We look forward to presenting the compelling case on the merits that the Trump administration’s clean air loopholes are unlawful and rejected by numerous states and industry alike.”
Methane is a major contributor to climate change. It’s a greenhouse gas that is more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the first two decades after its release. Oil and gas operations are the largest industrial source of methane pollution in the U.S.
In 2016, EPA set standards to reduce methane pollution from new, reconstructed and modified sources in the oil and gas sector. The 2016 standards rely on low-cost, commonsense, and widely available measure that major oil and gas producing states and some companies have likewise deployed to reduce emissions. However, two months ago the Trump administration signed two rules that together would drastically weaken or eliminate those standards.
The Trump EPA rollback would increase methane pollution, volatile organic compounds, and other dangerous air pollutants. Analysis by the Environmental Defense Fund found that 9.3 million people live within half a mile of one of the older wells that the rollback would leave forever excluded from basic EPA air pollution standards. Millions of these people belong to groups that are much more susceptible to the health impacts of polluted air (including children and adults over 65) or have historically borne an oversized burden of local air pollution (including Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and people living below the poverty line).
EDF and nine other health and environmental groups – Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Parks Conservation Association, Ft. Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights, Food & Water Watch, Environmental Integrity Project, Earthworks, Clean Air Council, and Center for Biological Diversity – filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump EPA’s rollback of the methane standards. A coalition of 24 states, led by California, also sued.
Today’s court order provides that briefs challenging the rollback are due on December 7, with the case fully briefed by January 27, 2021.
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