(Washington, D.C. – September 15, 2020) Ten environmental groups today filed their promised lawsuits against the Trump administration for its unlawful and dangerous rollback of protections from oil and gas methane pollution, and asked the court to suspend changes to the methane pollution standards to prevent irrevocable harm to human health and the environment — including emissions of 3.3. million metric tons of methane pollution each year — while the case while the case is considered.
Environmental Defense Fund, 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 petitions for judicial review of EPA’s two rules rolling back oil and gas pollution limits. They also filed a motion to stay one of those rules, which cancels the methane pollution reduction requirements and removes downstream sources of industrial methane pollution from regulation. All documents were filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
“The tragic wildfires across the West and hurricanes and floods in other parts of the country are clear signs that we must do more to reduce climate pollution. Reducing methane from the oil and gas supply chain is the fastest, most effective way to slow the rate of global warming right now. Instead, the Trump administration’s attack on the oil and gas methane pollution reduction standards will leave us even more vulnerable to climate change,” said Environmental Defense Fund Senior Attorney Rosalie Winn. “The administration has no legal, scientific or public health basis for rolling back these crucial safeguards. We have sensible, low-cost solutions to reduce oil and gas methane pollution that have been protecting Americans for years.”
“We see right through this appalling effort to hamstring future regulation of the oil and gas industry’s methane pollution,” said Liz Jones, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “As the world suffers record heatwaves, fires and storms, the last thing we need is deregulation of this superpollutant to make our climate crisis worse. We’re going to court for those breathing the smoke, smog and toxic pollution caused by fossil fuels.”
“Methane pollution is a disaster for our air, our climate, and public health. At a time when we should be curbing pollution, the Trump administration wants to let the oil and gas industry off the hook. We won’t let them line the industry’s pockets at the expense of people’s health,” said Earthjustice Associate Attorney Caitlin Miller.
“With these regulatory actions, EPA has rolled back and weakened effective and low-cost air quality standards and controls for oil and gas facilities without offering any rational reason or proper legal basis. By its own admission, EPA’s actions will immediately eliminate air standards for over 1,000 downstream and pipeline facilities that sprawl through countless communities, increase emissions of hazardous and smog-forming volatile organic compounds, and worsen the oil and gas industry’s vast greenhouse gas footprint,” said Environmental Integrity Project Senior Attorney Adam Kron.
“The EPA has cooked up a crazy talk rule giving industry a green light to spew millions of tons of heat-trapping methane pollution into the air. That dangerous rollback comes as the West is engulfed in wildfires and the South and East are bracing for more hurricanes – disasters driven by uncontrolled climate pollution. We’re going to court to protect the health of millions of people – both those living near the polluting oil and gas facilities and those living in the path of climate catastrophe,” said NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) Senior Strategic Director David Doniger.
“With a rapidly warming planet and the most devastating global pandemic in 100 years, the Trump administration has somehow seen fit to worsen both of these crises by attacking safeguards that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and clean up the air we breathe,” said Sierra Club Staff Attorney Andres Restrepo. “We will not stand by as Trump’s EPA guts commonsense, low-cost protections against dangerous oil and gas pollution in order to pad the pockets of oil and gas executives. The courts have repeatedly rejected this administration’s attempts to give a free pass to corporate polluters, and we are confident that this will be no exception. That’s why we’re taking Trump and EPA Administrator Wheeler to court, and it’s why we expect to win. Our families and communities deserve no less.”
Methane is 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 – but on August 13, the Trump administration signed two rules that would drastically weaken or eliminate those standards.
The rollbacks would increase methane pollution, and also increase 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 Trump administration’s action would seek to leave forever excluded from basic air pollution standards by EPA. 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).
Declarations filed in court today by Environmental Defense Fund experts reveal the devastating consequences the Trump administration’s action would have on increasing climate-harming and smog-forming pollution, accelerating the impacts of climate change, and exacerbating public health issues like asthma and cardiovascular disease caused by oil and gas pollution, as well as the modest cost of the standards.
A coalition of 24 states, led by California, is also suing the Trump administration over the rollback.
# # #
Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading international nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on EDF Voices, Twitter and Facebook.