Despite objections from some of the biggest oil and gas companies in the industry, the Trump administration is moving to roll back more Obama-era environmental protections by removing limits on methane leaks.
Andrew Wheeler, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said Thursday he has proposed removing rules forcing companies to guard against methane leaks while drilling for both oil and gas. Methane is released during drilling if there is a leak or if waste gas isn’t completely flared, and is one of the main greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, scientists say.
The proposal is just the latest attempt by this administration to roll back environmental rules imposed by former President Barack Obama, and is particularly notable because more and more big oil companies oppose the decision because their investors are demanding they stick to strong environmental standards.
“The Trump Administration recognizes that methane is valuable, and the industry has an incentive to minimize leaks and maximize its use,” the EPA chief said in a statement. “Since 1990, natural gas production in the United States has almost doubled while methane emissions across the natural gas industry have fallen by nearly 15 per cent.
“Our regulations should not stifle this innovation and progress.”
Major companies like BP, ExxonMobile and Shell have opposed the regulatory rollbacks.
“We believe the correct mix of policies and reasonable regulations help reduce emissions, further supporting the benefits of natural gas in the energy mix,” ExxonMobile said in a December statement to the EPA.
The EPA says by rescinding the regulations, an extra 370,000 tons of methane would be released into the atmosphere, saving oil and gas companies $17 to $19 million a year. The agency is allowing 60 days for companies to comment on the plan before issuing a final ruling.
Wheeler, though the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is a former coal lobbyist. He told the Financial Times in May that helping to fight climate change isn’t his top priority.
“Is there climate change? Yes. Does CO2 contribute to climate change? Yes. Does man contribute to CO2? Yes,” Wheeler said at the time. “What’s going to happen 50 years from now? There’s a lot of divergent views on the models, and the inputs to the models and how we calculate them.”
Of course, it is well known that President Donald Trump does not believe in climate change, at one time calling it a sham made up by China, and then later pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement.
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2012