By: Kyle Merandi
Summary: Led by California Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, 20 states and 4 municipalities have filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency, seeking to block their rollback of methane emissions standards. According to the EPA’s own report, this rollback would increase methane emissions by 850,000 tons over the next decade. The agency says that the methane standards were “redundant,” and that incidental reduction emissions already occurs due to standards covering volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The previous standards were set by the Obama administration, who argued that, while reducing VOCs does also lower methane emissions, direct regulation of methane is important in the reduction of greenhouse gases. AG Becerra, in a statement announcing the lawsuit, highlighted the increase in wildfires, flooding, hurricanes, and “super-tornadoes” as evidence of the fact that we are not doing enough to mitigate climate change. He asks, "How many wake-up calls do our nation‘s leaders need to take climate action?” This lawsuit marks the 54th challenge the state has brought against the Trump administration regarding environmental protections. Other cases have fought a reduction in vehicle emissions standards, the suspension of air and water pollution monitoring, and relaxation of asbestos levels.
Why we should care? We should care about this topic because these decisions, whether they are made at a national or state level, and whether made by agencies, legislatures or courts, affect us all.
This article was interesting in that it shows that our unique system of government allows states to make decisions that are not necessarily in lock-step with the federal government. California’s economy makes up almost 15% of the national GDP. The decisions they make as a state on these kinds of issues can affect the entire country, especially today, when interstate and international trade connect supply chains the world over. It also highlights the need to reach a national consensus on environmental issues, as standards set will not be as effective if relaxed or reversed every time a new administration comes into power.
Science in Action.
Dr. Katey Walter Anthony is an Associate Professor at University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Dr. Walter Anthony studies the methane released by permafrost melt. Her work suggests our current trends in global temperature will surpass those seen after the last ice age, releasing even greater quantities of methane than before. This is important because global climate change, if not mitigated, will continue to melt these ice-covered regions, creating a feedback loop of further emissions. We must recognize these secondary effects of our actions and how they exacerbate our impact on the global climate.