Greens sue EPA over paused Obama methane pollution regulation

Greens sue EPA over paused Obama methane pollution regulation
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A coalition of environmental groups on Monday sued the Trump administration, saying that it violated the law last week in pausing an Obama administration methane pollution rule for the oil and natural gas industry.

The lawsuit to save the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) methane rule is the first court action against a Trump administration policy related to climate change.

Groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Sierra Club said the EPA illegally skipped the required process when it put a 90-day halt on the standards to limit methane pollution, a greenhouse gas around 80 times as powerful as carbon dioxide.

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The greens are asking the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to step in immediately and block the EPA from halting the rule

“In its haste to do favors for its polluter cronies, the Trump EPA has broken the law,” Meleah Geertsma, a senior NRDC attorney, said in a statement.

“The Trump administration does not have unlimited power to put people’s health in jeopardy with unchecked, unilateral executive action like this,” she said.

An EPA spokeswoman declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying it is agency policy not to comment on ongoing litigation.

The EPA said last week that it would pause for 90 days the standards mandating pneumatic pumps at oil and natural gas well sites to reduce methane emissions, along with the certification standards for those pumps, while it considers whether to formally repeal the rule entirely.

The agency had previously paused the rule’s provision regarding fugitive methane emissions and methane monitoring.

The regulation was a piece of former President Obama’s wide-ranging strategy to reduce methane emissions across numerous industries. It included an EPA rule to reduce methane pollution from landfills and an Interior Department rule regarding oil and natural gas drilling on federal land, both of which the respective agencies are working to repeal.

The rule is highly controversial. It is opposed by the oil and gas industry, Republican lawmakers and red states, and EPA head Scott Pruitt was one of the challengers of the rule in his last job as Oklahoma’s attorney general.

In a federal register notice published Monday to make the 90-day pause official, the EPA cited a provision of the Clean Air Act allowing for such 90-day administrative stays under certain circumstances.