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Green groups sue EPA over methane policy delay


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Green groups sue EPA over methane policy delay

The Sierra Club and other environmental organizations are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its decision to delay methane emissions regulations for the oil and gas industry.

The Sierra Club, Clean Air Council, Earthworks, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Integrity Project and Natural Resources Defense Council filed a petition for review on June 5 with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that asked the court to consider U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's decision to stay a rule governing methane emissions from new and modified sources in the oil and gas sector.

The agency put the regulation on hold for 90 days past its planned effective date, June 3, for the fugitive emissions, pneumatic pumps and professional engineer certification requirements from the 2016 rule. The new-source oil and gas methane emissions rule, proposed in August 2015 and finalized in May 2016, was expected to reduce 510,000 tons of methane emissions in 2025, cost about $530 million that year, and result in $690 million in climate benefits during that year.

During the stay, the EPA will review certain provisions of the final rule that were not included at the proposal stage, which did not allow for the public feedback on those elements. Specifically, the agency said the previous administration had not given the public a chance to respond to how the final rule would apply to low-production well sites and the process for getting approval to use "alternative means of emissions limitations," among other things. The agency plans to prepare a proposed rule during the reconsideration process and take public comment.

"The Clean Air Act doesn't permit EPA to suspend or delay finalized emission standards in these circumstances; by law, the methane safeguards must be implemented immediately," the groups said in a June 5 news release.

In May, over 60 groups asked the agency to maintain the methane emissions rules for the oil and gas industry, after Pruitt announced that the agency would stay and reconsider the rule. (U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. Circuit docket 17-1145)