Gene J. Puskar / AP

Some global oil-and-gas companies are splitting from smaller, more domestic players over whether EPA should alter or simply jettison methane emissions standards for new wells.

Why it matters: The side that prevails could signal which industry faction wields the most influence as the White House upends Obama-era policies. Oh, and methane is a powerful greenhouse gas.

What's happening: This week EPA Chief Scott Pruitt said companies can forgo compliance with Obama's 2016 methane rule for at least three months. The move sets up a debate over whether to make Obama's mandate more industry-friendly, or scrap it outright.

Battle lines: Big international companies like Royal Dutch Shell want a less restrictive methane rule on the books, industry sources say. One reason is because the massive companies can comply easily. Another is that favoring the rule enables the industry to tout natural gas as a solution to climate change. (Burning natural gas spews way less carbon dioxide than coal, but methane leaks can erode much of that climate advantage.)

But there are two reasons independent producers like Devon Energy want the rule killed with no replacement:

  1. Compliance costs are a bigger deal for independents than behemoths like ExxonMobil.
  2. Independents are more ideologically opposed to Obama's EPA agenda and don't believe the agency should regulate methane.

Our thought bubble: Pruitt may be more inclined to side with the independent players. They're the top producers in Oklahoma, where he served as attorney general and had close ties to those companies.

Go deeper

The next cliff for the unemployed

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A program supporting Americans who are typically ineligible for unemployment benefits will expire at the end of the year, with millions still relying on it as the labor market sputters.

Why it matters: The result could be catastrophic for the economic recovery that Wall Street fears is already fragile.

The apocalypse scenario

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democratic lawyers are preparing to challenge any effort by President Trump to swap electors chosen by voters with electors selected by Republican-controlled legislatures. One state of particular concern: Pennsylvania, where the GOP controls the state house.

Why it matters: Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, together with a widely circulated article in The Atlantic about how bad the worst-case scenarios could get, is drawing new attention to the brutal fights that could jeopardize a final outcome.

Federal judge rules Trump administration can't end census early

Census workers outside Lincoln Center in New York. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled late Thursday that the Trump administration could not end the 2020 census a month early.

Why it matters: The decision states that an early end — on Sept. 30, instead of Oct. 31 — would likely produce inaccuracies and thus impact political representation and government funding around the country.

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