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Trump’s EPA Rolls Back Methane Emission Rules

Methane emissions recently were found to be 60 percent higher than previous Environmental Protection Agency reports, at some 13 million metric tons a year, enough natural gas to fuel 10 million American homes. Photo: US Army

by Eric Galatas

AUSTIN, Texas – On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency’s acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler, announced the agency will roll back rules that limit emissions of methane, benzene and other pollutants at oil and gas operations.

The proposal comes after the Trump administration recently rolled back rules limiting pollution at power plants and clean-car standards.

Colin Leyden, senior oil and gas manager for regulatory affairs at the Environmental Defense Fund, said the move would deal a blow to air quality for states, including Texas, that don’t have comprehensive protections for methane pollution.

“This proposal will allow methane emissions of at least 380,000 additional tons of methane,” stated Leyden. “And the truth is that in Texas, the EPA rules are all that are really there. That’s all that exists as protections for Texans, and for the environment.”

Leyden noted that methane is more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide in forcing climate change, and it’s estimated that the gas is responsible for about a quarter of current global warming.

The Western Energy Alliance, an industry group, praised the EPA announcement, saying the move would boost energy production and create jobs by removing unnecessary red tape.

Leyden mentioned that the Trump administration’s proposal goes against recent actions taken to capture lost methane by British Petroleum and Exxon-Mobil, companies he said understand that their long-term viability is tied to reducing climate pollution.

Further, Leyden noted that oil and gas producers have done pretty well in states with strong methane protections on the books.

“Colorado has been operating with comprehensive methane rules, even more stringent than what are being rolled back today,” he said. “And they have experienced large growth in the oil and gas industry over the years since those rules have been in place.”

A recent study in the journal Science showed current oil and gas methane emissions are 60 percent higher than previous EPA reports – 13 million metric tons a year, or enough natural gas to power 10 million American homes.

Leyden pointed to analysis from the International Energy Agency showing emissions could be cut by 50 percent globally, globally, at zero net cost to companies, using currently available technologies.

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