This summer, the Trump Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a plan to roll back a litany of rules regulating methane emissions. The proposed rule removes requirements that fossil fuel companies detect and stop methane leaks from energy generation, extraction, and storage facilities. The proposed elimination of methane regulations is the latest in the Trump administration’s assault on environmental progress.
The EPA intends to hold a public hearing on the amendments this month. Members of the public can submit comments before November 25, 2019 by going to https://www.regulations.gov/ and entering this number in the search field: EPA-HQ-OAR-2017-0757. You can also send comments by email to: a-and-r-Docket@epa.gov. Include Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2017-0757 in the subject line.
The Trump Administration’s plans are a serious threat to efforts to combat climate change and can endanger public health. If methane escapes into the air unburned during production and distribution, it is over 80 times as potent as carbon dioxide. Once in the air, methane also takes 20 years to disappear. An analysis by the Wall Street Journal found that methane leaks over the past 10 years were equal to emissions from 69 million cars.
The rationale for this proposed rollback is economic. According to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, eliminating the methane regulations would save money for the oil and gas industry. The American Petroleum Institute also supports the Trump Administration’s plan.
If this environmental rollback moved forward, 5 million metric tons of methane and 1.2 million tons of volatile organic compounds would be released into the air per year nationwide in addition to current emissions. It would also lead to 43,000 additional tons of pollutants, such as benzene, in our air. These pollutants are linked to serious health problems such as birth defects, asthma, cancer and premature death.
This proposed rule is not the first time that the Trump Administration attempted to loosen methane regulations. Last year, the U.S. Interior Department also acted to remove methane regulations on federal lands. Interior’s Bureau of Land Management has proposed a rule that reverses the 2016 Waste Prevention Rule, which required companies to reduce oil and gas leaks on Federal and Native American lands.
Several environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, Wilderness Society, sued the Bureau of Land Management over this reversal.
Leaders in New York are fighting back. Attorney General Letitia James stated that without controls on methane, floods, fires and violent storms would worsen, endangering America’s families and communities. In a related case in September, she led a coalition of 5 other states to win a Federal court decision that struck down an EPA rule that would have reversed ozone emissions standards.
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer also vowed that Democrats in the Senate would work to repeal the regulations with the Congressional Review Act authority.
NYLCV will continue to advocate for policies that reduce emissions, on the federal, state, and local levels.