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EPA begins rollback of Obama-era methane rules

Photo: Julie Dermansky/Corbis via Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday it was easing up on requirements for oil and gas producers and making other changes to an Obama-era rule cutting emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, as it works toward a broader repeal in the coming months.

Why it matters: Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that’s also the primary component of natural gas. It’s sometimes purposefully or inadvertently leaked in the production and transport of the fuel — and when drilling for oil. The EPA has been slow in its approach toward rolling back Obama-era methane rules.

One level deeper: As we reported a few weeks ago, the agency is set to later propose a broader draft rule that includes a range of regulatory options, but likely contains a preference for wholly rolling back direct rules cutting methane from new wells, according to an administration official. The proposal will instead point to a separate air-pollution rule issued in 2012 that inadvertently cuts methane emissions as it targets other air pollutants.

The big picture: The EPA’s methane moves are the latest in a broad regulatory rollback ordered by President Trump. The Interior Department is working on repealing another rule cutting methane emissions from oil and gas wells on federally owned lands. Other big rules that have been rolled back and/or replaced with far looser versions include the cutting of carbon emissions from power plants and stricter fuel-efficiency standards of cars.