Fourteen states — including Oregon and Washington — are threatening to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for violating the Clean Air Act.
In a letter to the EPA sent Thursday, the group argues Director Scott Pruitt broke the law when he ordered his agency to halt part of the rule-making process for regulating methane and other air pollution from oil and gas facilities.
Last year, the EPA adopted a rule limiting methane and other pollutants from new and modified oil and gas extraction facilities and pipelines. Then, in March, Pruitt stopped the EPA from developing guidelines for existing oil and gas facilities to go along with that rule.
The letter says Pruitt's order — given without notice or opportunity for the public to comment — violated the federal Clean Air Act.
Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and existing facilities emit more methane than newer facilities, the letter states. So backing off of the air pollution guidelines for existing oil and gas facilities is a setback in the fight against climate change. Plus, the letter says, it’s against the law.
“The Trump administration’s refusal to combat global climate change is not only dangerous but unlawful,” said Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
Ferguson has been a frequent legal challenger to policies from President Trump's administration, such as travel restrictions on some Mulsim-majority countries.
“This rule will prevent the release of significant amounts of methane and other harmful pollutants, which cause real harm to Washingtonians,” Ferguson said.
In a news release, Ferguson also said that if the EPA develops its guidelines as required by the law it would cut methane emissions by about 40 percent.
The states are giving the EPA 180 days to resume the process of setting guidelines for existing oil and gas facilities before they file a lawsuit.
EPA spokeswoman Enesta Jones said it’s not appropriate for the agency to comment on pending litigation.
The letter was sent from the attorneys general of New York, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont, as well as attorneys from Washington, D.C., and Chicago.