HARRISBURG — Attorney General Josh Shapiro and a coalition of 13 other attorneys general have filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit against U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt’s actions to halt the regulation of methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases, and other harmful air pollutants.
The motion to intervene in the case – Clean Air Council v. Pruitt – is in support of a group of environmental organizations seeking to immediately stop the EPA’s unlawful stay of a climate rule, finalized in 2016, that would prevent emissions of thousands of tons of the potent greenhouse gas methane, smog-forming volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants, including benzene and formaldehyde from facilities built after September 2015.
EPA Administrator Pruitt announced in April the EPA would halt the rule currently in place, and on June 5 implemented a 90-day stay of the rule’s key leak detection and repair requirements, along with an order to reconsider aspects of the climate rule, which has been in place for nearly a year.
“Methane is one of the most dangerous greenhouse gases, and making sure this rule goes into place is one of the most effective things we can do to combat climate change,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. “By filing this motion, I am following through and upholding our commitment to curb climate change. This action is good for Pennsylvania and consistent with steps the Commonwealth took last year to monitor these emissions. The federal government should do the same and give the energy industry the predictability they need.”
Last year, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf unveiled a plan to reduce methane emissions during natural gas development, production and transmission by requiring leak detection and repair measures, equipment efficiency upgrades, improved processes, implementation of best practices, and more frequent use of leak-sensing technologies.
The current EPA rule requires oil and gas companies to monitor sources of emissions at well sites and compressor stations constructed after September 2015 in order to detect air pollutant leaks and repair them at regular intervals.
According to testimony filed by scientific experts in the case, during the 90-day term of the administrative stay alone, more than 5,300 tons of methane, 1,475 tons of volatile organic compounds, and 56 tons of hazardous air pollutants will be emitted that would otherwise have been prevented had the EPA not put the brakes on the climate rule. In addition, Administrator Pruitt and the EPA have signaled that they will seek to further stay the current emissions rule for an additional 27 months.
Methane is a powerful agent of climate change. Pound-for-pound, methane warms the climate about thirty-four times more than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
In addition to Attorney General Shapiro, the attorneys general of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington joined the motion, as well as Chicago.