Energy

West Virginia AG Files Lawsuit Against EPA’s ‘Unlawful’ Natural Gas Regs

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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West Virginia’s attorney general is leading a coalition of states filing a lawsuit against the “unlawful” Environmental Protection Agency’s new regulations on oil and natural gas producers.

The state’s attorney general, Patrick Morrisey, and 14 other state agencies, petitioned Tuesday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reviewing the EPA’s rules regulating emissions from natural gas operations.

Morrisey and the others argue the new rules unnecessarily burden natural gas producers and leave the door cracked open for future draconian limits on existing oil and gas operations from the Obama administration.

“This is yet another example of unlawful federal overreach jeopardizing West Virginia jobs and working families,” Morrisey said in a press statement Tuesday. “The rules are a solution in search of a problem and ignore the industry’s success in voluntarily reducing methane emissions from these sources to a 30-year low.”

The coalition contends EPA’s rule would force production and distribution costs skyward, which would create higher utility bills for consumers. The EPA predicts the cavalcade of regulations will cost $530 million by 2025, though it says the benefits will outweigh the cost; the agency claims the climate benefits will net $690 million.

Gina McCarthy, the EPA’s administrator, told reporters in May the regulations would help combat global warming, as well as reduce harmful pollutants.

“The actions we’re announcing today will help combat climate change, it will reduce air pollution that directly harms public health, and it will make sure that the oil and gas industry can continue to operate safely and responsibly as a vital source of energy for Americans across the country,” McCarthy told reporters.

Still, other studies suggest the cost will be closer to $800 million.

West Virginia is not the only state filing a lawsuit against EPA over the regulations.

North Dakota filed a lawsuit in July against the EPA over methane emission rules the state calls “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and not in accordance with law.”

The lawsuit, filed in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, argues the arbitrary nature of the rules will significantly affect North Dakota’s large shale oil operations. The rule was made in May and requires natural gas producers dramatically reduce methane leaks at drilling sites.

Fracking produces more than 67 percent of U.S. natural gas, according to a report published in May by the Energy Information Administration (EIA). The country produced 79 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day in 2015, smashing the previous record by 5 percent, according to the EIA report. So the regulations stand to dramatically affect the country’s shale oil production.

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