EPA Moves to Delay New Source Performance Standards for Oil and Gas Based on Legal Theories of the American Petroleum Institute

November 2, 2017
Stacy MacDiarmid, (512) 691-3439, smacdiarmid@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – November 2, 2017)  After being rebuked in court, the Environmental Protection Agency took another step Wednesday in its effort to suspend commonsense rules designed to reduce harmful methane emissions from oil and gas operations.

Administrator Pruitt has proposed suspending the standards for two years and today issued a Notice of Data Availability in an effort to support that flawed and damaging proposal. EPA is now seeking to justify its action based on legal theories put forward by the American Petroleum Institute.

“The Trump Administration has been taking its marching orders from the most irresponsible elements of industry since day one,” said Matt Watson, EDF Associate Vice President for Climate and Energy. “EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has made clear his goal is to gut the rules, and now he’s trying to figure out how to justify what he’s planned to do all along.

“Administrator Pruitt is trying to cook the books in ways that fly in the face of accepted science and economics, but he can’t obscure the fact that his actions would allow tens of thousands of wells to continue emitting harmful pollution in communities across the country,” Watson said. “While the rest of the world moves forward, the Trump administration is dead set on keeping the U.S. locked in the past.”

Two weeks ago, the International Energy Agency released data showing that global oil and gas methane emissions could be reduced by 75% cost effectively, using off-the-shelf technologies. Last week, 10 of the world’s largest oil and gas companies announced their intention to achieve “near zero” methane emissions. And in September, Exxon subsidiary XTO announced an ambitious plan to drive down emissions at its operations across the U.S.

At the same time, several U.S. states have proposed and adopted new methane standards, and the problem is receiving increasing attention around the globe. At their last meeting, Ministers from 20 countries identified oil and gas methane as “the next big climate opportunity,” and pledged to take action to reduce their emissions.

“There is no reasonable basis for delay. Leading companies have already proven that, with the right regulatory drivers in place, this can be done,” Watson said. “Once again, this administration is prioritizing the interests of industry’s lowest common denominator and threatening the health of Americans.”

Methane is a highly potent greenhouse gas, responsible for approximately 25 percent of the warming we’re experiencing today. The oil and gas industry is the largest man-made source of methane in the U.S. A report published last week in The Lancet, one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals, concluded that the health of millions of people in the U.S. and across the world is already being seriously damaged by climate change, with impacts falling disproportionately on children, the elderly, and low-income populations.

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