(Reuters) – California and 19 other states on Monday filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s decision to weaken curbs on methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, saying the widespread West Coast wildfires should be a reminder of the dangers posed by climate change.
U.S. President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit California on Monday to be briefed about its devastating wildfires, while Democratic rival Joe Biden plans a speech on the matter from Delaware, bringing climate change to the forefront of the presidential campaign.
“Our climate emergency is increasingly a public health emergency. The toll of the natural disaster we face from unprecedented wildfires is increasingly measured in human life,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “How many wake-up calls do our nation‘s leaders need to take climate action?”
The lawsuit targets two policy amendments announced by the Environmental Protection Agency in August that roll back methane emissions curbs on the oil and gas industry and weaken requirements for leak detection. Methane is many times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas when released unburned into the atmosphere.
The lawsuit is California’s 54th against the Trump administration to challenge rollbacks to key environmental protections. California is joined in the lawsuit by 19 other Democrat-led states, including rising oil and gas producer New Mexico, and four districts and municipalities.
Trump, a Republican who pulled the United States out of the Paris accord on global warming because he found it too costly, has made it a priority to boost the domestic drilling industry by slashing regulations. He has blamed poor forest management for the West Coast wildfires.
Democrats have said that climate change plays a role in the fires, and Biden has announced a plan to transition the United States away from fossil fuels to fight global warming.
(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Marguerita Choy)