Tribal and environmental groups have filed lawsuits challenging a Trump administration rule that weakened methane emission regulations.
The Philadelphia-based Clean Air Council, North Dakota’s Fort Berthold Protectors of Water & Earth Rights and the Sierra Club filed lawsuits to stop a pair of rules finalized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that rolled back restrictions on emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds from oil and natural gas industry sources.
The first rule rescinded the New Source Performance Standards that regulated methane and eliminated regulations for methane and volatile organic compounds from the transmission and storage segments of the oil and gas industry.
The second rule amended the standards to exclude some production wells from fugitive emissions monitoring.
The changes are expected to result in increased emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds.
Methane is a greenhouse gas that is at least 25 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. The gas is often paired with toxic air pollutants like benzene, formaldehyde and ethylbenzene.
Volatile organic compounds can cause cancer and cause damage to the liver, kidney and central nervous system.
“Tribal families have no other option but to breathe air contaminated from methane and volatile organic compounds. Children in my community have suffered frequent nosebleeds, tribal members who have never complained of respiratory health issues are now being treated for asthma,” said Joletta Bird Bear, member of the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. “EPA Director Wheeler’s proposed elimination of the NSPS and the weakening of detection of gas emissions is a direct assault on tribal members' health, quality of life, and mortality who live adjacent to the BIA federal frack wells and well infrastructures on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.”
The groups will be represented by environmental advocacy group Earthjustice. The lawsuits argue that the rules EPA has finalized are contrary to the evidence provided on the effects of methane pollution, which will disproportionately impact low-income communities and communities of color.