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EPA to roll back Obama-era methane emissions standards

EPA to roll back Obama-era methane emissions standards

Donald Trump's administration on Thursday proposed rescinding Obama-era limits on oil and gas industry emissions of methane, one of the main pollutants scientists link to climate change.

Anne Idsal, assistant administrator of the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, said the administration is confident that methane emissions from oil and gas companies will continue to decline over time, even without the current regulations.

The proposal "delivers on President Trump's executive order and removes unnecessary and duplicative regulatory burdens from the oil and gas industry", EPA head Andrew Wheeler said in a statement.

"We believe sound environmental policies are foundational to the vital role natural gas can play in the energy transition and have made clear our support of 2016 law to regulate methane from new and modified onshore sources", Watkins said.

The move is the Trump administration's latest easing of rules created to curb greenhouse gas emissions, including many put forth by his predecessor.

Methane, which is the principal component of natural gas, can be released into the atmosphere through pipeline and storage facility leaks. Many others in the oil and industry have welcomed the easing. But that's "such a small fraction of the industry total cash flow that it's just laughable", says Harvard University's Steven Wofsy, a professor of atmospheric and environmental science.

"The rule changes inject more regulatory uncertainty into the system and is a rejection of the vast and increasing body of science that shows that climate change is affecting humans around the globe and right here in IN", she added.

Transco pipelines used for transporting natural gas liquids lie exposed at the edge of a cornfield
Robert Nickelsberg Getty Images FILE

"The Trump Administration recognizes that methane is valuable, and the industry has an incentive to minimize leaks and maximize its use", he added.

It often is leaked as companies drill for gas and transport it across the country, and methane emissions are more than 80 times as potent as carbon dioxide emissions over the short term.

The step would be the latest in a series easing the previous administration's emissions controls on the oil, gas and coal industries, including a 2016 rule regulating oil-industry methane leaks as a pollutant under the federal Clean Air Act.

"Despite the administration's proposal to no longer regulate methane, Shell's U.S. assets will continue to contribute to that global target", she said. The administration claims the regulations stifle the innovation and progress of natural gas producers. "Despite the administration's proposal to no longer regulate methane, Shell's USA assets will continue to contribute to that global target".

A study by the Environmental Defense Fund, advocacy group, has concluded the oil and gas industry is emitting far more of the heat-trapping gas than is reported to the EPA. "We simply can not protect our children and grandchildren from climate catastrophe if EPA lets this industry off scot-free". "If EPA moves forward with this reckless and sinister proposal, we will see them in court".

Once the EPA's new proposal is published in the Federal Register, there is a 60-day window for public comment and a public hearing will be held.

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