Continuing a history of environmental regulations structured by the courts, and a recent memory dominated by severe weather events, seven states led by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman intend to sue the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for violating the Clean Air Act.
Specifically, the coalition’s complaint is that the agency has failed to sufficiently regulate methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. The group has targeted methane from oil and gas, as opposed to other sectors, as the industry is the single largest emitter of the pollutant in the US. To address this “unreasonable delay” in regulating methane emissions from fossil fuels, the group is requesting that the EPA set performance standards on new methane sources from the sector and to develop guidelines for reducing emissions from existing operations.
The pending litigation was announced in a December 2012 letter from the Attorneys General of New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont. The representatives state that the action’s impetus is the severe weather that the region has faced in recent years. Described as having faced “severe droughts and heat waves to a string of devastating storms”, the letter does not cite Hurricane Sandy directly; however, the shocking impact of the storm is considered to be a factor in the states’ action. In addition to significant damage through the Caribbean, the October 2012 storm also resulted in approximately 150 US deaths and a US$50 billion aid bill, the Hurricane Sandy Relief Act. This is in addition to a US$9 billion bill passed in early January to support payment of flood insurance claims.
As defined in Section 304 of the Clean Air Act, the proponents must wait for 60 days to allow the Agency to respond. Therefore, no litigation may be processed until mid-February 2013.
By Cheryl Johnson, [email protected]