A power plant flaring methane

Oil and Gas Industry Methane Emissions

State attor­neys gen­er­al opposed efforts by the Trump admin­is­tra­tion to roll back rules that reduce emis­sions of methane — an extreme­ly potent green­house gas — for new sources in the oil and gas indus­try. They also have sued EPA to force the agency to ful­fill its oblig­a­tion to reduce methane emis­sions from exist­ing sources in the oil and gas industry.

New Sources

  • June 2016

    In June 2016, the Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA) issued a final rule set­ting New Source Per­for­mance Stan­dards (NSPS) for new and mod­i­fied sources of methane emis­sions from the oil and gas industry.

2017-2021

  • June 2017

    The Trump admin­is­tra­tion tried to avoid imple­ment­ing the final rule’s require­ments. In June 2017, the EPA delayed by 90 days com­pli­ance dead­lines for core ele­ments of the 2016 NSPS for the oil and gas indus­try. Only two weeks lat­er, EPA ini­ti­at­ed a pro­posed rule­mak­ing to extend that delay for two years.

  • June 2017

    A coali­tion of envi­ron­men­tal groups filed an emer­gency motion request­ing the D.C. Cir­cuit Court of Appeals reject the pro­posed 90-day stay. A group of attor­neys gen­er­al suc­cess­ful­ly moved to inter­vene and joined in the motion.

  • July 2017

    In an opin­ion released on July 3, 2017, the Court of Appeals reject­ed the EPA’s argu­ment, rul­ing that the agency could not uni­lat­er­al­ly put off com­pli­ance dead­lines in exist­ing rules and instead must con­duct a full notice-and-com­ment rule­mak­ing process before it can do so. 

  • August 2017

    In August 2017, a coali­tion of state attor­neys gen­er­al filed exten­sive com­ments with the EPA object­ing to the agen­cy’s unlaw­ful attempt to impose the two-year delay.

  • Octo­ber 2018

    In Octo­ber 2018, the EPA pub­lished its pro­pos­al for rolling back the 2016 rule for reduc­ing methane emis­sion from new and mod­i­fied sources in the oil and gas indus­try. The pro­posed rule would weak­en methane leak mon­i­tor­ing require­ments and would move away from strict lim­its on methane emis­sions. The EPA acknowl­edged that the pro­pos­al would result in high­er emis­sions and degrad­ed air quality.

  • Decem­ber 2018

    In Decem­ber 2018, a coali­tion of thir­teen attor­neys gen­er­al filed com­ments oppos­ing the pro­posed rule for new and mod­i­fied sources of methane emis­sions in the oil and gas indus­try. The attor­neys gen­er­al not­ed that the pro­pos­al vio­lates the Clean Air Act by fail­ing to demon­strate that the pro­pos­al incor­po­rates the best sys­tem of emis­sion reduc­tion (BSER) for new and mod­i­fied sources in the oil and gas indus­try. The com­ments also stat­ed that the pro­pos­al is unlaw­ful because it is arbi­trary and capri­cious inso­far as EPA failed to jus­ti­fy its con­clu­sion that the 2016 rule’s BSER is no longer the BSER.

  • August 2019

    In August 2019, with the agency hav­ing not yet final­ized its Octo­ber 2018 pro­pos­al to roll back the 2016 rule, the EPA advanced a new pro­pos­al that would elim­i­nate any fed­er­al reg­u­la­tion of methane emis­sions from both new and exist­ing sources in the oil and gas indus­try (rescis­sion pro­pos­al). The August 2019 pro­pos­al is anoth­er attempt by the EPA to achieve the same objec­tive: roll­back of the 2016 rule. Almost imme­di­ate­ly upon the release of the pro­pos­al, Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Xavier Becer­ra, Col­orado Attor­ney Gen­er­al Phil Weis­er, Con­necti­cut Attor­ney Gen­er­al William Tong and New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al Leti­tia James vowed to chal­lenge the EPA’s new pro­posed rule that would leave the largest source of methane emis­sions unregulated.

  • Novem­ber 2019

    In Novem­ber 2019, Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra led a coali­tion of twen­ty-one attor­neys gen­er­al in fil­ing com­ments oppos­ing the August 2019 pro­posed rule. The attor­neys gen­er­al not­ed that the pro­pos­al vio­lates the Clean Air Act because the EPA has a statu­to­ry oblig­a­tion to reg­u­late methane emis­sions from the oil and nat­ur­al gas source cat­e­go­ry after it had deter­mined that the source cat­e­go­ry con­tributes sig­nif­i­cant­ly to air pol­lu­tion – includ­ing methane – that may rea­son­ably be antic­i­pat­ed to endan­ger pub­lic health or wel­fare. The com­ments also point­ed out that the pro­posed rule is arbi­trary and capri­cious in vio­la­tion of the Admin­is­tra­tive Pro­ce­dure Act (APA) for fail­ing to jus­ti­fy rolling back the 2016 rule.

  • August 2020

    In August 2020, the EPA released its final rule elim­i­nat­ing any fed­er­al reg­u­la­tion of methane emis­sions from both new and exist­ing sources in the oil and gas indus­try (rescis­sion rule). On the day the final rule was released, Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra released a state­ment com­mit­ting to chal­leng­ing the final rule.

  • Sep­tem­ber 2020

    In Sep­tem­ber 2020, on the day the final rule was pub­lished in the Fed­er­al Reg­is­ter, New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al James and Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra led a coali­tion of twen­ty-one attor­neys gen­er­al in fil­ing a peti­tion for review in the D.C. Cir­cuit chal­leng­ing the law­ful­ness of the rule. Lat­er that week, in sep­a­rate, but relat­ed lit­i­ga­tion, the D.C. Cir­cuit ordered that the final rule be admin­is­tra­tive­ly stayed pend­ing fur­ther order of the court as the court con­sid­ered an emer­gency motion for stay from envi­ron­men­tal organizations.

  • Sep­tem­ber 2020

    A day lat­er, Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra led the coali­tion in fil­ing an emer­gency motion for stay of the August 2020 rule pend­ing judi­cial review and for expe­dit­ed brief­ing and con­sid­er­a­tion of the case. Lat­er that same month the EPA filed its response, oppos­ing the emer­gency motion for stay of the August 2020 rule.

  • Sep­tem­ber 2020

    In Sep­tem­ber 2020, the EPA final­ized the rule it had ini­tial­ly pro­posed in Octo­ber 2018 for rolling back the 2016 rule. The rule final­ized some of the pro­vi­sions in the Octo­ber 2018 pro­pos­al, amend­ed oth­er pro­vi­sions in the pro­pos­al and dropped some pro­vi­sions alto­geth­er. The final rule weak­ened leak mit­i­ga­tion require­ments for com­pres­sor sta­tions in the oil and gas indus­try and elim­i­nat­ed leak mit­i­ga­tion require­ments for the industry’s low pro­duc­tion wells. 

  • Sep­tem­ber 2020

    On the day the rule was final­ized, Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra led a coali­tion of 20 attor­neys gen­er­al in fil­ing a peti­tion for review chal­leng­ing the Sep­tem­ber 2020 rule. In Novem­ber 2020, the attor­neys gen­er­al joined a motion from envi­ron­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions request­ing a par­tial stay of the roll­back rule.

  • Octo­ber 2020

    In Octo­ber 2020, the D.C. Cir­cuit issued an order that denied the emer­gency motion for stay and lift­ed the pre­vi­ous­ly-issued admin­is­tra­tive stay in the lit­i­ga­tion chal­leng­ing the August 2020 rescis­sion rule. 

  • Decem­ber 2020

    In Decem­ber 2020, the EPA filed its mem­o­ran­dum in oppo­si­tion to the request for a par­tial stay of the Sep­tem­ber 2020 roll­back rule from envi­ron­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions and attor­neys general.

  • Decem­ber 2020

    In Decem­ber 2020, Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra led the coali­tion of attor­neys gen­er­al in fil­ing their open­ing proof brief in the lit­i­ga­tion. The brief not­ed that the rescis­sion rule’s elim­i­na­tion of all methane emis­sions con­trols is arbi­trary and capri­cious as the agency failed to pro­vide a rea­soned expla­na­tion for its deci­sion by fail­ing to reex­am­ine the sci­en­tif­ic and fac­tu­al record it relied on in issu­ing the 2016 rule. As of June 2021, the case was in abeyance.

  • Jan­u­ary 2021

    In Jan­u­ary 2021, the D.C. Cir­cuit denied the motion for a par­tial stay of the Sep­tem­ber 2020 rule.

Exist­ing Sources

2017-2021

  • April 2018

    On April 5, 2018, a coali­tion of 15 attor­neys gen­er­al filed a law­suit in fed­er­al dis­trict court against the EPA for unrea­son­ably delay­ing its manda­to­ry oblig­a­tion under the Clean Air Act to con­trol methane emis­sions from exist­ing sources in the oil and gas indus­try. The com­plaint not­ed that the EPA’s reg­u­la­tion of new sources of methane emis­sions in the oil and gas indus­try trig­gered its manda­to­ry oblig­a­tion under the Clean Air Act to issue guide­lines for lim­it­ing methane emis­sions from exist­ing sources. The attor­neys gen­er­al not­ed, in that regard, the inap­pro­pri­ate­ness of the EPA’s with­draw­al in March 2017 of an infor­ma­tion col­lec­tion request that had been issued dur­ing the pri­or admin­is­tra­tion with­out any notice or oppor­tu­ni­ty for com­ment.” The suit requests the court to direct the EPA to pro­pose and adopt reg­u­la­tions to con­trol methane emis­sions from exist­ing sources in the oil and gas industry.

  • July 2020

    In July 2020, a coali­tion of 15 attor­neys gen­er­al led by Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra, Mass­a­chu­setts Attor­ney Gen­er­al Healey, and New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al James filed a motion for sum­ma­ry judg­ment request­ing that the court com­pel the EPA to reduce methane emis­sions from exist­ing oil and nat­ur­al gas oper­a­tions. In their motion, the attor­neys gen­er­al not­ed that the EPA’s delay in pro­mul­gat­ing an exist­ing source rule is unrea­son­able and con­trary to Congress’s expec­ta­tion, endan­gers pub­lic health and wel­fare, and is a bad faith attempt to evade its statu­to­ry duty. The coali­tion asked the court to grant sum­ma­ry judg­ment in favor of the states, declare the EPA’s four-year delay unrea­son­able, and order the EPA to devel­op and expe­di­tious­ly issue guide­lines to con­trol methane emis­sions from exist­ing sources in oil and nat­ur­al gas oper­a­tions. The fol­low­ing week, Col­orado Attor­ney Gen­er­al Phil Weis­er filed an ami­cus brief in sup­port of the motion for sum­ma­ry judgment.

    In light of the August 2020 rescis­sion rule for methane emis­sions in the oil and gas indus­try that would elim­i­nate the require­ment to reg­u­late exist­ing sources of methane emis­sions in the indus­try (dis­cussed above), the par­ties request­ed that the brief­ing sched­ule for the motions for sum­ma­ry judg­ment be sus­pend­ed. The court lat­er vacat­ed the pend­ing dead­lines for the motions for sum­ma­ry judgment.

  • Novem­ber 2020

    In Novem­ber 2020, the EPA filed a motion to dis­miss the under­ly­ing lit­i­ga­tion the attor­neys gen­er­al had first filed in April 2018.

Methane Waste Pre­ven­tion Rule

2017-2021

The Trump admin­is­tra­tion also attempt­ed to nul­li­fy the Bureau of Land Man­age­men­t’s rule to reduce waste­ful methane emis­sions in oil and gas pro­duc­tion on pub­lic lands. State attor­neys gen­er­al have chal­lenged the admin­is­tra­tion’s per­sis­tent attempts to scut­tle the methane waste rule. More infor­ma­tion is avail­able on the Methane Waste Pre­ven­tion Rule page.