Trump Administration’s refusal to rein in oil and gas facilities’ emissions violates the Clean Air Act
OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson sent a letter today to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt, pledging legal action if the EPA continues violating the Clean Air Act.
The Clean Air Act requires that, once the EPA adopts a rule to limit emissions from new and modified facilities in a given industrial sector, it must establish guidelines for limiting emissions from existing 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 Pruitt abruptly ordered the EPA to halt the process for establishing guidelines for existing oil and gas facilities.
In the letter to Pruitt, Ferguson argues the EPA had no lawful basis for this action. The EPA violated its obligation under the Clean Air Act by terminating its process without notice or opportunity for comment.
The letter also emphasizes the importance of the guidelines in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“In this case, the Trump Administration’s refusal to combat global climate change is not only dangerous, but unlawful,” Ferguson said. “This rule will prevent the release of significant amounts of methane and other harmful pollutants, which cause real harm to Washingtonians.”
Oil and natural gas facilities are the largest industrial emitters of methane in the nation. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that has more than 80 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.
New, restructured and modified oil and natural gas facilities will account for little of the total methane emissions by facilities in 2018, while existing ones will release up to 90 percent. If the EPA implements its guidelines as required, it could cut methane emissions by about 40 percent at an annual cost of less than a penny per thousand cubic feet of gas.
Every day the EPA delays the guidelines for oil and gas facilities, the more risk there is that they will continue releasing dangerous pollutants into the atmosphere.
Other states included on the letter are New York, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia, the City of Chicago and the California Air Resources Board.
The letter states that the EPA has 180 days to restart the process before the states will file a lawsuit.
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.
Brionna Aho, Interim Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; firstname.lastname@example.org