Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 
Apr 5 2018

Ferguson delivers on promise to sue Trump Administration over oil and gas facility emissions

OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today filed a lawsuit against U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt for violating the Clean Air Act by refusing to rein in emissions from existing oil and gas facilities.

In 2016, the EPA adopted a rule limiting emissions of methane and other pollutants from new and modified oil and gas extraction and pipeline facilities. At the same time, the agency began developing the guidelines for limiting emissions of those same pollutants from existing facilities, as required by law. 

Without explanation, on March 2, 2017, Pruitt abruptly ordered the EPA to halt the process for establishing guidelines for existing oil and gas facilities without notice or opportunity for comment. More than a year later, the agency still refuses to complete the guidelines.

The EPA is unreasonably delaying adopting that rule, according to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by 14 states. The lawsuit asks the court to order the EPA to propose and implement emission guidelines for existing oil and gas facilities. The suit comes more than six months after Ferguson and others sent a notice to the EPA asking the agency to implement the rule limiting emissions.

“The Trump Administration’s continued insistence on protecting polluters and jeopardizing Washingtonians is wrong — and illegal,” Ferguson said. “Once again, we will hold the President and his Administration accountable to the rule of law.”

“Once again, the Trump Administration is choosing to protect fossil fuel special interests over the health of Americans and our environment,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “The Trump Administration is ignoring the EPA’s own scientific findings, and recklessly increasing our country’s exposure to the risks of climate change. I support the efforts of Attorney General Bob Ferguson and other states’ attorneys general in continuing to fight for strong federal enforcement of the Clean Air Act.”

Once the EPA adopts a rule to limit emissions from new and modified facilities in a given industrial sector, the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to establish guidelines for limiting emissions from existing facilities.  

In the lawsuit against Pruitt, Ferguson and the states argue that the EPA’s unreasonable delay in adopting the guidelines for existing facilities violates the Clean Air Act.

Ferguson and the states further allege that failing to implement these guidelines will cause harm to their residents.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that has more than 80 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Oil and natural gas facilities are the largest industrial emitters of methane in the nation. Existing oil and natural gas facilities will account for up to 90 percent of the total methane emissions by facilities in 2018.

Nearly a decade ago, the EPA determined that methane and other greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare by contributing to climate change. The EPA’s delays in adopting the guidelines for existing oil and gas facilities increases the risk of dangerous pollutants being released into the atmosphere.

Washingtonians face significant injuries from climate change: increased heat deaths and illnesses, increased ground-level ozone pollution and more frequent flooding, among many others.

If the EPA implements its guidelines as required, as it has for new or modified facilities, it could cut methane emissions by a significant percent and save more than $100 million per year for the U.S. economy and consumers.

Lead attorney for the State of Washington is Assistant Attorney General Kay Shirey.

Washington is joined in the lawsuit by New York, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia and the City of Chicago.

In a similar case, Ferguson and 14 other attorneys general intervened in a lawsuit against the EPA challenging delays in implementing a rule regulating emissions from new oil and gas facilities. In July 2017, the D.C. Circuit ruled in favor of Washington state, finding that the EPA had violated the Clean Air Act.

This is Ferguson’s 24th lawsuit against the Trump Administration.

Ferguson has not lost a case brought against the Trump Administration. The Attorney General’s Office prevailed in all five cases against the Trump Administration that are completed and there are no more appeals. That does not include four additional successful outcomes that have been or could be appealed, including blocking President Trump’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the military and his attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

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The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.

 

Contacts:

Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; brionna.aho@atg.wa.gov