Continuing with the business of undoing regulations put in place under the Obama administration, the Trump administration moved to repeal a rule aimed at curbing methane output by companies drilling for oil and natural gas on federal lands.
Methane, which is about 25 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, accounts for 9 percent of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions; about a third of that is estimated to come from oil and gas operations. Under the rule, oil and gas companies would have been required to capture leaked methane, update their equipment and write new plans for minimizing waste when drilling on government property.
The move comes after the administration's budget was released Monday, which calls for “responsible development of energy on public lands and offshore waters.”
“In order to achieve energy dominance through responsible energy production, we need smart regulations, not punitive regulations,” Joe Balash, the department’s assistant secretary for land and minerals management, said Monday in a statement.
The oil and gas industry lobbied hard for the repeal, saying it could cost roughly $279 million to make necessary adjustments and would hinder production.
But environmentalists were dismayed: in 2016, the Bureau of Land Management estimated the rule would eliminate 180,000 tons of methane per year, the equivalent of sidelining 950,000 cars.
“Gutting the rule would allow unchecked waste of natural gas, unnecessary pollution and the loss of revenue to communities and tribes to address critical needs such as schools and roads,” said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund.
The agency is expected to publish the proposal in the Federal Register, which will kick off a 60-day public comment period. A final repeal of the rule would come after that.