EPA Gets High-Profile Backers in Methane Legal Battle

Turn to the nation's most objective and informative daily environmental news resource to learn how the United States and key players around the world are responding to the environmental...

By Anthony Adragna

Aug. 16 — States and environmental groups separately sought to intervene Aug. 15 on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency in a federal appeals court battle over the agency's first-ever methane emissions standards for new oil and gas infrastructure ( North Dakota v. EPA, D.C. Cir. , No. 16-1242, motions filed 8/15/16 ).

More than a dozen states, as well as oil and gas industry groups, have previously challenged the EPA's new source performance standards (RIN:2060-AS30) for new and modified oil and gas wells in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Now, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the city of Chicago are backing the agency's rules as lawfully issued under Section 111(b) of the Clean Air Act.

“The regulations adopted by EPA in May reflect the ready-availability of proven, effective, and affordable measures for reducing methane emissions from new and modified sources in the oil and gas industry,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) said in a statement. “My office is proud to stand with our fellow coalition members in aggressively defending these important controls on climate change pollution.”

Six environmental advocacy groups—Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, Clean Air Council, Earthworks, and Environmental Integrity Project—filed their own motion to intervene in the case.

Under the new and modified source regulations, formally published by the EPA June 3, owners and operators of new and modified oil and gas wells would be required to develop leak monitoring plans and an initial leak survey within a year or within 60 days of startup and twice annually after that (81 Fed. Reg. 35,824).

Moving forward with the rules for new sources also triggers a requirement for the agency to begin the process of regulating existing ones. The EPA has begun to collect the information needed to do that.

Timothy Ballo represented Earthjustice, Meleah Geertsma represented NRDC, Peter Zalzal and Tomás Carbonell represented the Environmental Defense Fund, Joanne Spalding and Andres Restrepo represented the Sierra Club, and Darin Schroeder and Ann Weeks of the Clean Air Task Force represented Earthworks in the litigation.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anthony Adragna in Washington at aadragna@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

For More Information

The motion to intervene from state petitioners is available at http://src.bna.com/hK7.

The motion to intervene from environmental groups is available at http://src.bna.com/hK8.

Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.