The Trump administration is rolling back Obama-era standards to limit planet-warming methane pollution from oil and gas operations on federal lands.
Environmental advocates said retracting the regulation would contribute to global warming and cause more smog-forming pollution that can cause heart and lung illnesses.
But the interior department deputy secretary, David Bernhardt, called the 2016 Obama-era rule “flawed” and “a radical assertion of legal authority” in a news release.
The rule regulated flaring, leaking and venting natural gas on US federal and Native American tribal lands. The interior department’s Bureau of Land Management argued the standards overlapped with state, tribal and federal rules and that the Obama administration underestimated its costs.
Lena Moffitt, senior director of the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign, called the announcement “a continuation of this administration’s ongoing assault on clean air, public lands, our health and our climate”, and said: “We’ve already successfully defended these protections in court and in Congress, and the fight won’t stop here.”
Another public interest group, the Clean Air Task Force, said the rollback would cost taxpayers millions in wasted natural gas and damage from air pollution.
Conrad Schneider, advocacy director for that organization, said the Obama era rule also would have saved companies money once they made the initial investments to comply with it.
“This is the public’s gas,” Schneider said. “Any sort of waste here is basically burning up the public’s resource.”
In a separate action, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week finalized a plan to eliminate the Obama administration’s requirement that oil and gas companies monitor and fix methane leaks for new operations.