On January 10, 2013, the State of Texas and two of its agencies (the Railroad Commission of Texas and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) filed a joint motion in the Circuit Court for the District of Columbia to voluntarily dismiss their challenge to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new air pollution standards regulating hydraulic fracturing operations.
In the motion, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott explained: “[T]he issues in this case more directly affect the industry petitioners and can be fully and adequately addressed by them.” A total of nine separate petitions for review, including Texas’s, were filed by environmental groups and industry trade associations in the D.C. Circuit on October 15, 2012 (the date EPA’s rules were scheduled to take effect). Thus, the other eight petitioners will continue the consolidated suit without Texas.
At the center of the suit is EPA’s final rule, which the agency promulgated in the Federal Register on August 16, 2012. For the first time, the EPA set out performance standards to regulate emissions of various air pollutants, including methane, by new sources in the oil and natural gas industry sectors — including hydraulic fracturing operations. Among other issues, industry petitioners contend that EPA’s rules mandating 95% reductions in emissions of VOCs from storage vessels or tanks emitting over 6 tons per year of VOC at drilling or processing sites are too broad and overly onerous.