WASHINGTON (CN) – The Trump administration finalized plans Tuesday to unwind regulations aimed at preventing methane from leaking into the atmosphere.
The Department of the Interior announced it would begin the reversal of the Waste Prevention Rule, a regulation established under former President Barack Obama which ultimately never had a chance to go into effect.
To curb pollution, the rule stipulated that greenhouse gas emissions at oil and gas production sites on public and tribal lands must remain limited.
The regulation was touted by the Obama administration as both environmentally- and taxpayer-friendly. According to a December 2016 Government Accountability Office report, natural gas leaks at production sites cause taxpayers to lose up to $23 million annually in potential royalty revenue.
The proposed Trump administration rule allows for more discharges of methane through a process known as venting.
In a statement Tuesday, Interior Department Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt said the rollback eases burdens that “unnecessarily encumber energy production, constrain growth and prevent job creation.”
The rollback also falls in line with the department’s desire to “[fulfill] our commitments to the policy vision that the president has established,” Bernhardt said.
In a March executive order, Trump directed the Interior Department to reconsider the Waste Prevention Rule or any other regulations that “unduly burden” domestic energy production.
A 60-day public comment period for the revised rule remains open.
Though it does not linger in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide – the gas which contributes to global warming – methane is widely considered to be the most destructive greenhouse gas. It exceeds the potency of carbon dioxide by 80 times. Its potency stems from the way methane more rapidly absorbs and traps heat.
The Interior Department’s proposed reversal also falls in line with a recent decision by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Last week, the agency eased regulations around drilling operation inspections and proposed that operators must only conduct inspections once per year instead of every six months. The EPA’s latest rollback also gives operators 60 days to make necessary repairs on equipment instead of the previous, 30 day cap.
Erik Milito, a director at the American Petroleum Institute, welcomed the rollback in a statement Tuesday, saying the 2016 rule “improperly reached” beyond the authority of the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920. That legislation authorized venting and flaring restrictions for the “purpose of preventing undue waste of federal mineral resources.” The 2016 rule, Milito said Tuesday, merely “duplicated” the efforts of states and the EPA.
David Doniger, the senior strategic director of climate and clean energy at the Natural Resource Defense Counsel said Tuesday the latest Interior Department undertaking is yet another indicator of the Trump administration’s “relentless push to give the oil and gas industry multi-million dollar handouts at the expense of American’s health and environment.”
“This commonsense rule is needed to curb smog-forming, cancer-causing, and climate-warming air pollution leaking from oil and gas facilities across the country,” Doniger said.