Attorney General Janet T. Mills Joins Coalition Suing Trump EPA for Ignoring Responsibility Under Clean Air Act To Control Methane Pollution

April 5, 2018

AUGUSTA – Attorney General Janet Mills today joined a coalition of 15 Attorneys General and the City of Chicago in suing the Trump administration for ignoring its legal duty to control emissions of methane – an extremely potent greenhouse gas – from existing oil and gas operations. Specifically, the suit charges that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt has violated the federal Clean Air Act by “unreasonably delaying” its obligation under the Act to control methane emissions from these operations.

“Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and this pollution is significantly contributing to global climate change. EPA has a statutory duty to regulate these emissions and we will not stand by and allow the Trump Administration to shirk its duties under the Clean Air Act,” said Mills.

The Complaint, available here, was filed this morning in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas, warming the climate about 80-times more than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Oil and gas operations – production, processing, transmission, and distribution – are the largest single industrial source of methane emissions in the U.S. and the second largest industrial source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions behind only electric power plants. Based on EPA data, the Environmental Defense Fund estimates that roughly $1.5 billion worth of natural gas – enough to heat over 5 million homes – leaks or is intentionally released from the oil and gas supply chain each year. The logic of continuing to allow leaks and intentional discharges of methane is especially dubious, as methane itself is a valuable product, being the primary component of natural gas.

Nearly 90 percent of the methane emissions projected for the oil and gas industry in 2018 will come from sources in existence prior to 2012. However, proven, cost-effective methods are readily available to control methane emissions from these existing sources. A 2014 analysis prepared by ICF International found that the industry could cut methane emissions 40 percent below the projected 2018 levels using available technologies and techniques – at an average annual cost of less than $0.01 per thousand cubic feet of natural gas produced. Taking into account the total economic value of the gas not released, the 40 percent reduction would yield savings of over $100 million dollars per year for the U.S. economy and consumers.

In today’s lawsuit, the coalition cites clear statutory language, Congressional intent, established agency practice, and the large contribution that existing sources make to methane emissions as support for their contention that EPA is obligated to act “without delay” to finalize controls on methane emissions from existing oil and natural gas sources. EPA has known since at least 2009 that methane endangers public health and welfare, and has long had ample data on cost-effective measure for controlling methane emissions from oil and natural gas sources, for example, through the Natural Gas STAR Program, which started in 1993. The coalition argues that the EPA’s failure to establish guidelines for controlling methane emissions from existing sources in the oil and gas industry is an “unreasonable delay” in performing a mandatory duty under the Clean Air Act. The suit asks the court to direct EPA to propose and adopt the methane regulations required by the Act for oil and gas operations, following an expeditious deadline established by the court.