EPA halts Obama-era rule on methane pollution

EPA halts Obama-era rule on methane pollution
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has halted an Obama administration rule to cut down on pollution of methane, a greenhouse gas produced at oil and natural gas drilling wells. 

The EPA on Wednesday said it had issued a 90-day stay of agency rules designed to limit methane leaks at drilling sites, as well as rules setting standards for equipment and employee certification.

President Trump ordered the EPA to reconsider the methane standards in March when he signed an executive order to repeal several Obama administration climate regulations.

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Obama administration officials finalized the methane rule last May. The regulation, part of a federal methane reduction strategy that Trump has also repealed, was designed to cut 520,000 short tons of methane pollution by 2025. The EPA said compliance costs would be about $530 million. 

Drillers opposed the rule, saying it was costly and duplicative. Several states sued over the standards at the time, including Oklahoma, whose then-attorney general, Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Trump adviser affirms intent to leave Paris deal | Officials report leaks at Superfund site after Harvey | Hurricane Maria now a major storm Overnight Regulation: Trump adviser affirms plans to leave climate deal | FDA to study new cigarette warning labels | DOJ investigating Equifax stock sales Officials report potential spills at Texas Superfund site after Harvey: report MORE, is now administrator of the EPA. 

The EPA said in April it would formally review the methane rule, a lengthy process that includes a formal federal rulemaking.

The decision to roll back its methane standards comes as Canada begins the process of tightening its standards. Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced their methane reduction strategies together in 2016.

Environmental groups have said they will sue over the decision to reconsider the methane rules. In a Wednesday statement, the Natural Resources Defense Council said the Trump administration is “giving its friends in the oil and gas industry a free pass to continue polluting our air.”

—Updated at 1:12 p.m.