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CATF Pushes Back On Oil and Gas Deregulation

November 25, 2019 Work Area: Methane

In order to protect the public’s health and welfare from the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector, CATF and our partners have just strongly pushed back on the Trump Administration’s most recent efforts to deregulate the oil and gas industry. Essentially, we are stating that EPA has blatantly and dangerously abdicated its Clean Air Act duty. 

EPA’s proposal, published in September, described how they would exempt every source in the oil and gas transmission and storage segment from compliance with methane standards established in 2016. But they didn’t stop there. After that, EPA’s proposal lays out its plan to deregulate methane entirely. Together, these two components of EPA’s proposal are egregious—and are even worse when coupled with EPA’s October 2018 proposal to severely weaken the leak detection and repair (LDAR) requirements of the 2016 standards. 

These proposals have one underlying purpose: to make sure that existing sources within the oil and gas sector will be allowed to keep polluting indefinitely, without being required to undertake even common-sense measures to reduce emissions. As a result, if the proposal is finalized, CATF estimates that the industry will emit an additional 4.3 million metric tons of methane in 2025 (as well as an additional 1 million metric tons of volatile organic compounds and 38,000 metric tons of hazardous air pollutants), above what they’d emit if EPA followed its minimal duties under the law. These increased methane emissions are equivalent to the carbon dioxide emissions from nearly 100 coal-fired power plants. 

CATF and its partners explained in our comments that EPA’s treatment of methane and the oil and gas industry proposal is illegal and that the 2016 methane standards must remain in place for the entire sector. 

In the second part of the proposal, EPA includes a meandering call for comments – without actually proposing anything— in a conspicuous effort to erect barriers to regulating various kinds of dangerous emissions from highly-polluting categories of sources. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA must list categories of sources that cause, or significantly contribute to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare. After the category is listed, EPA must establish standards for the source category. 

EPA recognizes that this plain language in the Act requires it to make a finding about the dangers of a pollution problem and a source category’s contribution to it before listing the category but, in the proposal, EPA wonders whether it must go through this same formal process for each pollutant from the source. 

CATF and its partners submitted comments yesterday explaining that EPA must control air pollution, writ large, from the source category once it is listed. The burden is on the Agency to give a rational basis if it declines to regulate a pollutant from a listed category, not to make an additional finding that an individual pollutant is dangerous before regulating it. The Clean Air Act was designed to prevent pollution, not prevent pollution control.

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