Aug 29, 2019 - Energy & Environment

EPA proposes roll back to Obama-era methane regulations

A flag with the EPA logo.

Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed new rules Thursday designed to ease Obama-era regulations on methane emissions from the oil and gas business.

Why it matters: Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas. The oil and gas industry is a significant source of emissions from wells plus natural gas pipelines, compressors and other equipment.

  • But the Trump administration argues there'd be "minimal environmental benefits if [the EPA] were to take the prior path," per an EPA press call on Thursday.

Details: The EPA is "co-proposing two actions":

  • "In its primary proposal, the agency would remove sources in the transmission and storage segment of the oil and gas industry from regulation," a release reads.
  • "In an alternative proposal, EPA would rescind the methane emissions limitations without removing from regulation any sources from the transmission and storage segment of the industry."

The intrigue: Oil companies aren't all on the same page. According to the New York Times, the powerful lobbying group American Petroleum Institute praised the forthcoming plan.

  • But the NYT notes that Shell, ExxonMobil and BP support federal restrictions.
  • On Thursday's call, an EPA spokesperson said the business community has offered "positive comments from across the board."

What they're saying: Environmental groups are pushing back on the change.

“If EPA manages to finalize and implement this illegal proposal, it will have devastating impacts on our climate for years to come,”
— said Darin Schroeder, an attorney with the Clean Air Task Force

Of note: The EPA stated it expects downward trends in methane emissions to continue despite proposed deregulation.

Go deeper: Exxon asks EPA to regulate methane emissions from oil and gas


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