Last month, North Carolina joined states across the country calling on the U.S. Census Bureau to undo its decision to shorten the 2020 census period by one month. This month, North Carolina joined states across the country again, suing the United States Environmental Protection Agency. In the suit, they challenge the EPA’s recent rollback of federal standards limiting the emissions of methane and other hazardous pollutants.
The lawsuit, filed by attorneys general from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia, seeks formal review of the “Federal Register notice published at 85 Fed. Reg. 57,018 (Sept. 14, 2020) and titled ‘Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources Review.’ ”
(If that doesn’t mean much to you, that’s okay. It didn’t mean much to any of us either.)
The Trump Administration is rolling back Obama-era methane protections
The Trump Administration rescinded standards put forth during President Barack Obama’s terms. These terms set forth limits of methane emissions from oil and gas production. The rescinded standards also imposed requirements designed at detecting and repairing methane leaks.
According to the EPA itself, the decision focused on making things easier for the oil and gas industry. In its announcement, it wrote that the changes would “make it simpler and less burdensome” for the industry. It will also “save the industry millions of dollars in compliance costs each year,” the government wrote.
The rollbacks will save the oil and gas industry millions of dollars every year
In his press release, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein didn’t address the benefits expected by the industries. He did, however, express concern about what these changes mean for the health and safety of North Carolinians.
“We are experiencing a climate emergency that is heating the planet, sparking unprecedented wildfires, generating powerful hurricanes, and putting our health at risk,” Stein said. “In the midst of this crisis, the EPA is moving backward, shirking its responsibility to follow the data and protect are planet. These rollbacks of emissions regulations are irresponsible and dangerous, and I am fighting them.”
Stein cited some alarming statistics to support his office’s decision, too. He described methane as “a super-pollutant.” He said that methane is “up to 87 times more potent than carbon dioxide in its ability to trap heat over a 20-year timeframe.” “Roughly $1.5 billion worth of natural gas – enough to heat home more than 5 million homes – leaks or is intentionally released from the oil and gas supply chain each year,” he asserted.
The EPA’s own website confirms the dangers of methane
The EPA’s own website similarly confirms methane’s potential dangers. It states that the oil and gas “industry is a significant source of emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas with global warming potential more than 25 times that of carbon dioxide.”
“It is also the largest industrial source of emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a group of chemicals that contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone (smog),” the site explains. “Exposure to ozone is linked to a wide range of health effects…,” it says. Those effects include “asthma, increased emergency room visits, and hospital admissions and premature death.”
Finally, the site notes, “emissions from the oil and gas industry include air toxics” that are “known or suspected of causing cancer and other serious health effects.”