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States May Sue EPA Over Methane Emissions

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Seven northeastern states – New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont – have notified the Administrator of United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that they plan to sue the agency over recently adopted rules to control air pollution from oil and gas operations unless the agency takes steps to correct perceived deficiencies in those rules and their treatment of greenhouse gas emissions.  The New Source Performance Standards for oil and gas production operations – which became effective on October 15, 2012 – require “green completions” to minimize emissions during flowback from hydraulically fractured wells, as well as certain other emission controls on various processes associated with oil and gas production.  However, according to the states, the rules did not directly address emissions of methane – a greenhouse gas.  The states want the EPA to make a formal determination about the appropriateness of limiting methane emissions from oil and gas sources and, if regulation is deemed appropriate, to issue emission guidelines and performance standards.  If EPA fails to respond to their demand in a timely fashion, the states have indicated they will bring suit to force EPA to take such action, saying that the Clean Air Act imposes a nondiscretionary duty upon the EPA to do so.

For industry, while it is too soon to tell, the states’ action may ultimately lead to further revisions of the New Source Performance Standards for Oil and Gas Operations to include additional requirements to control methane.

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