State AGs urge EPA to resist call for oil, gas methane curbs

Oklahoma Atty. Gen. E. Scott Pruitt (R) and 12 more attorneys general from producing states urged the US Environmental Protection Agency to resist a threat by seven northeastern states to sue if EPA does not impose methane emissions limits under the federal Clean Air Act.

EPA appropriately decided earlier not to enact such requirements for new and existing oil and gas exploration, production, and processing facilities under the CAA’s New Source Performance Standards, Pruitt noted in a May 2 letter to Acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe and Gina McCarthy, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation who has been nominated to lead the agency.

The agency should not negotiate with the states of New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Massachusetts to resolve their notice of intent to sue under CAA’s Section 304 over that decision, Pruitt said in his letter.

He added that he also was expressing concern on behalf of AGs from Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Pruitt said EPA reached its decision after he wrote other AGs in October 2011 questioning methods the agency was using to measure methane emissions from conventional and unconventional oil and gas wells. This and other public comments led EPA to decide not to regulate methane emissions from such wells, but to review state standards instead, he indicated.

The northeastern states disagreed and notified EPA that they intended to sue it for backing off from new oil and gas methane emission regulations, Pruitt said on May 3. An EPA decision to reach a friendly settlement with those states potentially would obligate all the others follow to its terms even though they may not necessarily been involved in negotiations, he warned.

Reaching such “friendly” settlements in a “sue-and-settle” situation circumvents the law, Pruitt maintained. “The outcomes of these settlements have a very real effect on families, businesses, communities and state economies,” he said. “This letter puts the EPA on notice that any negotiations in this matter should include states that actually have oil and gas operations.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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