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U.S. states threaten lawsuit against EPA over regulations

Date: 12-Dec-12
Country: USA
Author: Andrew Longstreth

A coalition of seven eastern states led by New York plans to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to issue new guidelines to curb methane emissions, a greenhouse gas that may be linked to climate change.

In a letter on Tuesday to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, the top law enforcement officials for the seven states said the agency should have addressed methane emissions when it revised emission control standards for the oil and gas sector in August.

The seven states threatening litigation, which included Connecticut and Delaware, were among those that were most affected by Superstorm Sandy, which has renewed debate over the impact of climate change. The other states in the coalition include Maryland, Rhode Island, Vermont and Massachusetts. In their letter, the states said recent dramatic weather patterns were linked to methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.

"From severe droughts and heat waves to a string of devastating storms in the northeast over the last two years, it is becoming ever more apparent that increasing greenhouse gas pollution contributes to climate disruption in the U.S. and around the globe," the state attorneys general wrote.

A spokesperson for the EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Last year, the EPA received comments about proposed rules for regulations of certain pollutants from the oil and gas sector. Those included comments from trade associations, public interest groups and major energy companies, including Chesapeake Energy Corp, Devon Energy Corp and Chevron Corp.

In August, the EPA published its final rules. At the time, it said it would "continue to evaluate the appropriateness of regulating methane with an eye toward taking additional steps if appropriate."

In their letter, the states argued that the EPA missed a deadline required by law to determine whether new regulations over methane are needed.

"While it is clear that methane from oil and natural gas development contributes substantially to climate change pollution, regulators have failed to require the industry to use available and cost-effective measures to control these emissions," said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, whose office is leading the coalition.

The states said they are willing to explore solutions outside litigation, but said they would file a lawsuit in federal court if no resolution is reached.

Some of the states preparing the lawsuit against the EPA were part of a failed effort to sue power companies to curb their emissions. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court found that their claims that pollution from power companies created a public nuisance were "displaced" by the Clean Water Act and the EPA, which has authority to regulate emissions.

The lawsuit, first filed in 2004, warned about the dangers that global warming posed to coastal areas in the United States. As severe flooding becomes more common, the lawsuit claimed, New York City, including its subway stations, airports and bridges "will experience more frequent and severe flooding from global warming-induced sea level rise, causing hundreds of billions of dollars in damages and wreaking havoc on the daily life of the City."

(Editing by Andrew Hay)

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