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Oklahoma AG leads 24 states in lawsuit against EPA over new oil & gas emissions rules

An American flag flies over an Oklahoma flag on an oil rig.
Oklahoma Energy Resources Board
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Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond is at odds with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over new rules to reduce methane emissions. Drummond is leading a coalition of states in a lawsuit to stop what he calls “attacks on Oklahoma’s most vital industry.”

The new rules were issued in early March and are scheduled to take effect in May. They would cut emissions from the oil and gas industry under the Clean Air Act. Oil and gas production accounts for most of the country’s industrial methane emissions, according to the EPA.

The rules would slash emissions by eliminating natural gas flares at oil wells, requiring lower-emissions equipment, and implementing monitoring for methane leaks.

The EPA estimates these new standards would eliminate 80% of the country’s methane emissions by 2030.

“We are finalizing this historic action to reduce climate pollution, protecting people and the planet,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan in a statement.

But Drummond said the rules could also hurt Oklahomans whose livelihoods depend on oil and gas. That industry accounted for almost a quarter of the state’s economy last year, according to the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board.

“If allowed to take full effect, the rule would cost Oklahoma countless jobs, devastate the oil and gas industry, and force us to pay significantly higher energy prices,” Drummond said in a statement.

Drummond highlighted a “Super Emitter” program that he says would make oil and gas producers a target for “harassment” from environmental groups. He also wrote required equipment and monitoring upgrades would be unduly expensive.

“Oklahomans need to understand that an attack on the oil and gas industry is an attack on our state budget and the vital services we provide to families,” Drummond said. “An attack on oil and gas producers is an attack on schools and healthcare. It’s an attack on roads and bridges.”

Drummond announced a lawsuit against the EPA on March 15; 23 other states have signed on. The suit says the EPA’s new rule is arbitrary and unauthorized. It calls for the rule to be struck down before it can go into effect.

But the EPA says the country needs to sharply reduce its methane emissions to prevent near-term climate impacts and avoid long-term climate disaster, pointing to data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Drummond’s suit isn’t the only ongoing challenge to federal rulemaking authority. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that could overturn the EPA’s ability to interpret laws like the Clean Air Act into rules like this one.

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Graycen Wheeler is a reporter covering water issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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