New Mexico joins court filing to call for stricter federal methane regulations

Jul 07, 2020

Adrian Hedden, Carlsbad Current-Argus | July 7, 2020

New Mexico joined a legal filing calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to adopt stricter regulations on methane pollution from oil and gas, accusing the industry of being the biggest source of methane pollution which accounts for a quarter of climate change impacts.

Signed by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, the July 3 filing also included oil and gas-producing states California and Pennsylvania.

The states of New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington were also included.

The City of Chicago and Washington, D.C. signed on along with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

The filing called on the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia to find that the EPA “unreasonably delayed” establishing methane standards and timeline for such an action.

It also called on the court to demand the EPA speed up efforts to tighten methane regulations on oil and gas operators. 

The filing cited several impacts of “delayed” methane emission standards, pointing to 3 million metric tons of methane pollution released by oil and gas each year, impacting local communities near extraction operations.

The need for climate pollution regulation

About 9.3 million people in the U.S. live within half a mile of existing oil and gas wells, making them more susceptible to the impacts of pollution, read the filing.

This included 600,000 children younger than five, 1.4 million older than 65 along with 1.4 million people living below the poverty line and another 2.8 million people of color.

EDF Senior Attorney Rosalie Winn said the administration of President Donald Trump ignored the need for stricter federal pollution controls throughout Trump’s term, endangering the public.

“For almost four years now, Trump’s EPA has been shirking its duty to protect people from one of our most dangerous types of climate pollution, without offering any legitimate reason why,” she said.

“The science supporting the need for urgent action has become even more compelling in that time, cost-effective solutions are at hand, and everyone from states to major oil and gas producers recognize the importance of EPA standards for existing oil and gas sources. EPA must act now to protect the public from methane pollution.”

Trump administration changes

In 2016, the EPA began the process to establish stricter emissions standards, the filing read, seeking an information collection request to establish the sources of the methane and the amount emitted.

In 2017, the Trump administration halted the EPA’s activity on the process, and later determined it had to power to regulate methane.