Trump administration finalizes two rules that ease methane gas regulations

While environmentalists and large oil companies including Shell, BP and ExxonMobil oppose the changes to the rules, the Trump administration said the move will benefit smaller producers.

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The Trump administration recently rolled back regulations that control methane pollution from the oil and gas industry, with the finalization of two new rules. Methane is not only a large contributor of global warming, it is also a major cause of localized public-health problems, scientists warn.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new rules will remove requirements of methane control within the oil and gas industry, “remove limits on methane and volatile organic compounds (VoOCs) emissions from the transmission and storage segments of the gas sector” and ease reporting and leak detection requirements at certain types of wells, a press release stated. The new rules could release “hundreds of thousands of tons of methane and other harmful air pollutants over the coming years,” the Center for Biological Diversity said.

The finalization of the two rules would increase methane emissions by 400,000 and 450,000 tons over a 10-year period, according to the EPA. But the agency said the savings would be worth $750 million and $850 million dollars.

Since the onshore oil and natural gas sector is the largest source of methane emissions in the United States, the EPA’s roll back of the Obama-era methane standards could cause catastrophic damages to the health of humans and the environment, environmentalist said. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, “methane is an especially potent climate pollutant that heats the atmosphere 87 times more than the same amount of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period,” which is “responsible for around a quarter of the global warming we’re experiencing today.”

“There are few things worse for the climate than the methane spewed by the oil and gas sector, and the solutions are readily available,” Liz Jones, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said. “Even for the Trump administration, this is an appalling new low.”

While environmentalists and large oil companies including Shell, BP and ExxonMobil oppose the changes to the rules, the Trump administration said the move will benefit smaller producers so they can “easily produce oil at small profit margins,” The Hill reported.

“Regulatory burdens put into place by the Obama-Biden Administration fell heavily on small and medium-sized energy businesses,” Andrew Wheeler, EPA Administrator, said. “Today’s regulatory changes remove redundant paperwork, align with the Clean Air Act, and allow companies the flexibility to satisfy leak-control requirements by complying with equivalent state rules.”

But Earthjustice attorney Tim Ballo said he will lead the fight against the changes by suing the EPA to keep the standards in place once the the rules are finalized, sometime next year.

“The Trump administration is once again putting industry interests over people and public health by gutting these common-sense emission standards,” Ballo said. “The rollback would only further exacerbate a climate crisis that is already near a point of no return. We cannot afford to go back.”

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