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April 6, 2018

Maine joins Clean Air lawsuit against Trump EPA

Courtesy / Maine Attorney General's Office
Courtesy / Maine Attorney General's Office
Maine Attorney General Janet Mills joined a coalition of 15 attorneys general and the City of Chicago on Thursday in a lawsuit alleging the Trump administration is ignoring its legal duty to control emissions of methane from existing oil and gas operations.

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills joined a coalition of 15 attorneys general and the City of Chicago on Thursday in a lawsuit alleging the Trump administration is ignoring its legal duty to control emissions of methane from existing oil and gas operations.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday morning in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, charges that Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has violated the federal Clean Air Act by "unreasonably delaying" its obligation under the act to control methane emissions from oil and gas production, processing, transmission and distribution.

"Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and this pollution is significantly contributing to global climate change," Mills said in a news release. "EPA has a statutory duty to regulate these emissions and we will not stand by and allow the Trump administration to shirk its duties under the Clean Air Act.

Joining Maine in the complaint are New York, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia and Chicago.

"Methane is a potent greenhouse gas — pound for pound, it warms the climate 28 to 36 times more over a one hundred-year time frame than carbon dioxide," the lawsuit states. "EPA has found that methane 'contributes to warming of the atmosphere, which, over time, leads to increased air and ocean temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, melting and thawing of global glaciers and ice, increasingly severe weather events, such as hurricanes of greater intensity and sea level rise.'"

Oil and gas operations — namely, production, processing, transmission, and distribution — are the largest single industrial source of methane emissions in the U.S. and the second largest industrial source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions behind only electric power plants, according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs assert that proven, cost-effective methods are readily available to control methane emissions from these existing sources, citing a 2014 analysis prepared by ICF International that found that the industry could cut methane emissions 40% below the projected 2018 levels using available technologies and techniques (at an average annual cost of less than $0.01 per thousand cubic feet of natural gas produced).

Taking into account the total economic value of the gas not released, the 40% reduction would yield savings of over $100 million dollars per year for the U.S. economy and consumers, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit asks the court to direct the EPA to propose and adopt the methane regulations required by the Clean Air Act for oil and gas operations, following an expeditious deadline established by the court.

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