Fed Up States Sue EPA For Failing to Regulate Methane

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman
Photo: AP

If President Donald Trump and his goonies want to go ahead and let methane run wild, they can try. They’ll just have to deal with all the many groups and states across the U.S. that’ll fight back.


Fifteen attorney generals from California to Vermont—with New York leading the charge, of course—filed a lawsuit Thursday against Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency, alleging the agency is ignoring its “legal obligation” to restrict methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. This lesser-known greenhouse gas is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and contributes to our impending doom via climate change.

Former President Barack Obama attempted to push forward updated regulations on the greenhouse gas in 2016 to reduce its leaking, flaring, and venting on public and tribal lands. These industry leaks don’t include only methane, either. Other hazardous air pollutants like benzene and hydrogen sulfide can be released, too. As they seep into the air, these pollutants become dangerous for the health of communities that live nearby.

That doesn’t matter to the EPA, though. No, siree. The EPA has been in a simmering battle to undo Obama’s methane rule since Trump entered the White House. Since March 2017, the administration has tried to erase the rule in Congress, through illegal rule suspensions, and, then, by a simple delay. That seems to be working for the EPA so far.

A federal district court ruled Wednesday that industry doesn’t have to comply with the rule until it’s finalized. That’s not expected until 2019. Environmental and tribal advocacy groups including the Center for Biological Diversity and Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment went ahead and filed an appeal Thursday in response. This court ruling is a major setback, however, from an earlier one in February where a separate district court told industry they must implement the rule immediately.

“Methane waste seriously and urgently threatens our climate, our pocketbook, and public health,” said Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, executive director of the Western Environmental Law Center, which is helping litigate this appeal, in a press release.

With this new state-led lawsuit, the delayed methane rule won’t necessarily be the topic of arguments. The EPA’s legal responsibility to regulate methane would be. And, boy, does the federal agency sure know about responsibility these days. Sigh.


Yessenia Funes is climate editor at Atmos Magazine. She loves Earther forever.


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Good stuff.

Wherever methane is escaping from like a fugitive in the night - the shit is adding up in the atmosphere.

Methane in air measurements from NOAA ESRL:

The Mauna Loa met station is a pretty good average global indicator for trace gases measurements. So we’re at about 1875 parts per billion. That’s equal to about 1.9 parts per million on a mole basis.

The same station for CO2:

We’re at about 408 parts per million for CO2

However, as Yessenia said, methane has a far greater global warming potential than carbon dioxide - about 25 times more for 100 year residence time in the atmosphere and about 72 times greater for a 20 year residence time. Let’s stick with 25 going forward.

So when you think of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and see 408 ppm - and think man, that seems high. It’s actually more like 408 ppm + 1.9 ppm x 25 = 456 ppm.

So enviro group 350 dot org should get its shit together and add methane concentration, too, to its name.