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Washington, D.C., Jun 5th – Today, Clean Air Task Force, on behalf of Earthworks along with other environmental groups dedicated to ensuring that the U.S. reduces its greenhouse gas emissions, sued EPA in the federal Circuit Court in Washington, D.C. over its decision to stay for 90 days the effectiveness of certain methane and other air pollution standards for the oil and gas industry. In the wake of the Administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, the groups have filed a motion seeking to immediately stop the EPA action, marking the first legal challenge filed against a Trump Administration’s EPA action to stay emission reduction requirements of a climate regulation.

Among other requirements, EPA’s stay will delay for 90 days the implementation of leak detection and repair programs, the cornerstone of the 2016 methane rules that EPA, under President Obama, finalized over one year ago. Americans throughout the country will now be deprived of the benefits from these programs, just as they were to take full effect.

Specifically, EPA’s stay delays regulations of sources responsible for more than half of the 2016 rule’s expected methane reductions, nearly 90 percent of the 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).

EPA’s actions give the lie to President Trump’s assertions that he is a friend to the environment, made last week as part of his Rose Garden announcement that he will withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement. “EPA’s stay makes it clear that the Administration cares more about the interests of the oil and gas industry than it does the American public, both current and future, who bear the brunt of the damage caused by this industry’s pollution,” said Darin Schroeder of Clean Air Task Force, who represents Earthworks in the lawsuit.

“While EPA’s stay is premised on its authority to ‘reconsider’ the 2016 Methane Rule, as a legal matter that tactic is simply not available to the Agency for this rule,” said Schroeder. “EPA is attempting an end-around the law.”

Lauren Pagel, Earthworks Policy Director said: “People living near oil and gas operations need EPA’s safeguards because right now they’re breathing oil and gas’s toxic air pollution. Instead, Trump’s EPA would allow more air pollution that will lead to higher levels of cancer, asthma attacks from ozone smog, and worsen the climate crisis. Our lawsuit puts Trump on notice, even as he’s withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement. We will #resist every step of the way and ultimately, we will prevail.”

“Now more than ever, it is critical that we hold those responsible for greenhouse gas emissions accountable,” Schroeder concluded. “EPA is attempting to undermine the cornerstone of our methane regulations, allowing industry to continue to put thousands of people’s health and well-being at risk. The Rule of Law still matters, and here EPA did not follow the law.”