- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday proposed rolling back methane leak rules for the oil and gas sector, a move the agency anticipates will save the multi-billion dollar industry $17 million to $19 million annually.
- The move continues the Trump Administration's campaign of regulatory rollbacks in the energy sector, which have also targeted energy efficiency rules, appliance standards, vehicle fuel efficiency and light bulbs.
- Environmental groups oppose the move, calling it a "giveaway to the dying fossil fuel industry." The oil and gas sectors supports the change — though it says companies remain committed to stopping methane leaks regardless of rule changes.
EPA officials say removing the regulations will help companies grow economically, while having no impact on actual emissions — the current rules are duplicative of many state regulations, and companies have incentives to stop leaks anyway, they argue.
"The Trump Administration recognizes that methane is valuable, and the industry has an incentive to minimize leaks and maximize its use," EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement.
The proposed rule, if finalized, "would remove sources in the transmission and storage segment" from regulation, and rescind the methane-specific requirements of the new source performance standards "applicable to sources in the production and processing segments."
The change reverts rules back to 2012 and 2016 standards, and "makes sure we move forward in a way that allows for growth in the industry," Acting Assistant Administrator for Office of Air and Radiation Anne Idsal said in a call with reporters.
"When it comes to regulation of [volatile organic compounds], we are precluded from regulating existing sources," Idsal said.
Idsal said EPA expects consumers to see $10 million in savings annually.
The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) was quick to oppose the move.
"The Trump administration is determined to destroy our planet in an effort to prop up faltering oil and gas giants,” Greg Cunningham, vice president and director of CLF's Clean Energy and Climate Change program, said in a statement. "These senseless rollbacks are nothing but a giveaway to the dying fossil fuel industry and they will put countless lives at risk.”
Independent Petroleum Association of America endorsed the change, saying it is "more cost effective with regard to the breadth of emissions sources."
"American producers are committed to managing their greenhouse gas emissions and continue to invest in the development of new technologies to mitigate and reduce emissions," IPAA Executive Vice President Lee Fuller said in a statement.
The American Petroleum Institute and Western Energy Alliance (WEA) also support the move.
"We'll see hyperbolic statements made by certain states and environmental groups, when in reality the adjustments merely realign the rule properly with the Clean Air Act," WEA President Kathleen Sgamma said in a statement. "Methane will still be regulated, and industry will continue its four-decade-long trend of reducing methane emissions even as natural gas production has increased by 50%."
Methane is 87 times more potent than carbon dioxide during the time it remains in the atmosphere, according to the Sierra Club. The group says this is "at least the seventh separate attempt by the Trump administration to roll back critical EPA safeguards against oil and gas pollution."
"This proposal is a blatant attempt to give oil and gas companies yet another free pass," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement.