The U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit today reinstated EPA’s oil and gas methane pollution standards that the Agency had suspended since early June. These standards provide Americans living near new oil and gas development much-needed protections from pollution caused by the industry. The three-judge panel agreed with environmental and public health groups’ claims, acting on the groups’ emergency motion. The majority found the stay to be unlawful and voted 2-1 to reinstate the rule, stating that EPA had no authority to issue the original stay.
“Today, the Court rejected EPA's attempt to unlawfully delay a critical EPA rule that protects our communities, climate, and public health from fracking-related air pollution,” said Lauren Pagel, Policy Director for Earthworks. “This decision affirms we are a nation of laws and neither President Trump nor Administrator Pruitt can capriciously change that to benefit fossil fuel interests. People – particularly children — whose well-being, health, and even lives depend on these pollution limits, are today protected from a Government that seems hell-bent on rolling back these and other basic safeguards.”
“Today’s decision is a win for all Americans, and particularly for children, who will reap the health and climate benefits provided by EPA’s methane standards,” said Darin Schroeder, the Clean Air Task Force lawyer representing Earthworks in the litigation.
Oil and gas operators must now comply with all aspects of the oil and gas methane standards passed during the Obama Administration, including those that were temporarily suspended. Complying with the portion of the standards that EPA attempted to stay will now result in half of the 2016 rule’s expected methane reductions, nearly 90 percent of the standards’ anticipated reductions of hazardous air pollutants like benzene and formaldehyde, and up to one-half of reductions of ozone smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The Court’s decision means that more than 11,000 wells located in states without any leak detection and repair standards of their own must comply with EPA’s leak inspection requirements, avoiding roughly 1,000 tons of methane, 240 tons of VOCs, and 11 tons of hazardous air pollutants.