EPA pulls back methane request for drillers

EPA pulls back methane request for drillers
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is withdrawing its request that oil and gas drillers provide regulators with information about methane emissions. 

Under former President Obama, officials had asked drillers to give the EPA data about methane emissions and equipment at existing oil and gas wells. The request was the first step in an agency push to issue a rule cracking down on methane emissions, which have a potent impact on climate change.

The oil industry and its supporters had opposed the request, as well as any EPA effort to crack down on methane, arguing drillers are reducing emissions through state rules and self-regulation. 

Officials from 11 states on Wednesday asked the EPA to suspend its information collection request, saying a methane rule would be costly and “unlawful.”

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The Trump administration, which opposes much of Obama’s climate change work, is highly unlikely to issue a methane regulation. In a Thursday statement, the EPA said the agency would “like to assess the need for the information that the agency was collecting through these requests.”

“By taking this step, EPA is signaling that we take these concerns seriously and are committed to strengthening our partnership with the states,” EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittMy freedom is on the line to fight climate change, more will follow Sessions: DOJ prohibited from issuing guidance that creates new rules Overnight Regulation: Senators unveil bipartisan gun background check bill | FCC rolls back media regs | Family leave credit added to tax bill | Senate confirms banking watchdog MORE said in a statement. 

“Today’s action will reduce burdens on businesses while we take a closer look at the need for additional information from this industry.”

Methane — the majority component of natural gas — has global warming potential 25 times greater than carbon dioxide, meaning its impact on climate change is significant. 

In the closing years of his presidency, Obama began to take aim at methane emissions, issuing rules against leaks and flaring of methane on public and private land. In May, the EPA finalized a rule cutting methane emissions at new drilling wells, and its information collection request was the first step in writing a rule for emissions at existing wells.

But Trump and congressional Republicans have signaled they will undo much of those efforts. Besides pre-empting this information request, the House has passed a resolution undoing an Interior Department rule on methane leaks on public land.