EPA Wants to Ease Regulation of Methane Emissions

The Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposal on Thursday to ease regulation of methane emissions, a particularly potent greenhouse gas believed to contribute significantly to climate change, because it believes the Obama administration improperly regulated it, CNN reports.

The proposed rule, expected this week, would no longer require the oil and gas industry to install technologies that monitor and limit leaks from new wells, tanks and pipelines. It’s the latest move by the Trump administration that would disregard scientific beliefs of the threat the climate crisis poses to the planet.

“The proposal would remove regulatory duplication and save the industry millions of dollars in compliance costs each year — while maintaining health and environmental regulations on oil and gas sources that the agency considers appropriate,” the EPA said in a statement. It estimated savings at between $17 million and $19 million annually, CNN adds.

It said the proposal would “rescind emissions limits for methane, from the production and processing segments of the industry.”

The proposal calls for maintaining regulations of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. “The controls to reduce VOCs emissions also reduce methane at the same time, so separate methane limitations for that segment of the industry are redundant,” the EPA said.

The Trump administration has previously targeted the Obama administration’s 2016 rule, first proposing to halt its enforcement while considering replacing or repealing it. That attempt was overruled by a federal court. The industry has been divided over how methane should be regulated, CNN writes.

The American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, said Thursday the changes are not a “rollback,” but rather “a realignment with the agency’s obligations under the Clean Air Act.”

The changes, the group wrote in a blog post, “could reduce duplication with state programs, provide greater clarity for industry in its regulatory compliance and, ultimately, further lower methane and other emissions and protect the environment by making it easier for operators to gain approvals for use of new, innovative technologies to detect fugitive emissions for repair.”

Shell, on the other hand, said it generally supports the Obama-era regulation and has its own plans to reduce its methane emissions. “Despite the Administration’s proposal to no longer regulate methane, Shell’s US assets will continue to contribute to that global target,” said Gretchen Watkins, the president of its US-based business. Exxon Mobil similarly said it “will continue to urge the EPA to retain the main features of the existing methane rule.”

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