4:48pm

Tue December 11, 2012
Energy

AG Schneiderman to sue EPA for failure to regulate methane

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced on Tuesday that his office will sue the federal government if it fails to regulate methane emissions from oil and gas operations.

Schneiderman joined the attorneys general of six other states - Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont - in filing a 60-day notice of intent to sue with the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Schneiderman's office cited the EPA's acknowledgement that methane has a warming effect far greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year time period and that methane and other greenhouse gases affect public health.

From the press release:

While it is clear that methane from oil and natural gas development contributes substantially to climate change pollution, regulators have failed to require the industry to use available and cost-effective measures to control these emissions. Today, our coalition is putting EPA on notice that we are prepared to sue to force action on curbing climate change pollution from the oil and gas industry.  

The EPA's Natural Gas Star program is a collaboration with the industry to reduce methane emissions, but it's entirely voluntary.

According to Schneiderman, the EPA missed an opportunity earlier this year when it updated emissions requirements for hydrofracking, known as New Source Performance Standards, or NSPS, but did not set methane emissions standards:

In August 2012, EPA revised NSPS regulations for the oil and natural gas industry. These regulations included, for the first time, federal air emission standards for natural gas wells developed through hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” along with requirements for several other sources of pollution in the oil and gas industry that are currently not regulated at the federal level. 

However, the revised regulations do not address the industry’s methane emissions. In fact, although EPA concluded that its regulations would have “co-benefits” in reducing methane emissions, its decision not to directly address the emissions of methane from oil and natural gas operations leaves almost 95% of these emissions uncontrolled.

A U.S. Circuit Court judge dismissed an earlier lawsuit  filed by Schneiderman against the Delaware River Basin Commission for failing to conduct a study of hydrofracking's impacts on the watershed because the lawsuit was filed before the commission issued regulations.