WASHINGTON, Aug 13 (Reuters) - The Trump administration on
Thursday rolled back regulations aimed at reducing emissions of
the potent greenhouse gas methane from oil and gas operations,
its latest move to unwind environmental rules ahead of
November's presidential election.
During a visit to election swing state Pennsylvania, U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler
formally rescinded 2016 Obama administration limits on oil and
gas industry emissions of methane, a move criticized by
environmentalists when initially proposed last August.
Wheeler said in Pittsburgh that new rules would save $100
million a year between 2021 and 2030. The rules will "fulfill
President (Donald) Trumps promise to cut burdensome and
ineffective regulations for our domestic energy industry," he
Methane is the main component of natural gas. It is a more
potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide but does not remain in
the atmosphere as long. Recent scientific reports highlight the
major role methane emissions play in worsening climate change. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-climate-change-methane/global-methane-emissions-rising-due-to-oil-and-gas-agriculture-studies-idUSKCN24F2X8
The new rules remove methane control requirements for the
production and processing of oil and natural gas as well as
curbs on emissions from transmission and storage.
The rules also exempt smaller oil and gas companies from a
requirement they install equipment to detect methane leaks and
change the required schedule for repairing leaks, "to respect
the realities of the oil and gas industry" by allowing
The EPA retained a rule issued in 2012 that limits volatile
organic compounds that cause smog, which it says already reduces
The American Petroleum Institute, a powerful fossil fuel
lobby, has said it supports the EPA's revisions even if some of
its larger members like Exxon, BP and Shell
have come out in support of mandatory methane
regulations. Smaller drillers say the Obama rules were too
costly for them to comply with.
"We support this revision," API regulatory affairs director
Frank Macchiarola told Reuters. "But we understand that this
rule has drawn diverse viewpoints across our industry."
The API said existing VOC regulations have led to methane
emissions falling 60% from 2011-2018.
The rollbacks will be challenged in court, environmental
groups and some state attorneys general have said.
"EPA must prioritize our health and safety over the profits
of oil and gas companies, and we will hold them accountable in
court, said Earthjustice associate attorney Caitlin Miller.
In addition to the rollbacks, the EPA also set up hurdles
for a future administration to regulate methane by requiring the
agency to make a finding that methane contributes significantly
to air pollution before proposing new requirements.
Joe Goffman, former EPA senior counsel and director at
Harvard's Environmental and Energy Law Program, said reducing
methane from oil and gas is necessary to combat climate change.
"The purpose of this rule is simply to strew baseless legal
obstacles across that path, ensuring that after Trump and
Wheeler are finally gone, their successors will have to struggle
to achieve urgently needed methane reductions," he said.
(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Tom Brown)