SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced that he is taking action against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to its failure to reduce methane emissions from existing oil and natural gas operations, as is required under federal law. Methane is many times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, and the lion's share of methane emissions from the oil and natural gas sector – up to 90 percent – comes from existing equipment. Attorney General Becerra wrote in an intent to sue letter that if the EPA refuses to act within 180 days, he will file suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The California Attorney General’s Office is currently leading a multi-state coalition of attorneys general that have intervened in the D.C. Circuit Court to defend standards that the EPA – under President Barack Obama’s leadership – issued to reduce methane from new, reconstructed and modified sources in the oil and natural gas sector. According to the Clean Air Act, once regulations have been issued for new sources, it is the responsibility of the EPA Administrator to issue guidelines for existing sources. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has not done so, and as a result, is in violation of the Clean Air Act.
"When the science and the law are clear, it's not time to stall, it's our duty to move forward," said Attorney General Becerra. "States are leading the way – requiring the oil and natural gas industry to do more to reduce this potent greenhouse gas pollutant – and it's past time for the EPA to step up to the plate. If it takes a lawsuit to get the EPA to fulfill its obligations, then that's what we'll do."
Reducing methane emissions is an important component of California’s climate change strategy, as illustrated by the California Air Resources Board’s recent regulation limiting methane emissions from both new and existing oil and natural gas sector sources. While California has issued its own stringent rules, the benefits obtained from California's regulations will likely be offset if the EPA fails to reduce methane emissions from the oil and natural gas sector in other states.
In the intent to sue letter, the attorneys general wrote that, instead of working to reduce methane emissions from existing sources, the Trump Administration’s EPA has done the opposite. In March 2017, Administrator Pruitt even withdrew, without any notice or opportunity to comment, the EPA’s information collection request to the oil and natural gas industry that would have been of “critical use in addressing existing source emissions.”
Joining Attorney General Becerra in sending the intent to sue letter are the attorneys general of Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington State, and the District of Columbia. The California Air Resources Board and the City of Chicago also joined this coalition.
A copy of the intent to sue letter is attached to the electronic version of this release at oag.ca.gov/news
For more information on CARB’s rule for monitoring and repairing methane leaks from oil and gas facilities see: https://www.arb.ca.gov/newsrel/newsrelease.php?id=907