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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 The regulation, part of a federal methane reduction strategy that Trump has also repealed, was designed to cut 520,000 short tons of methane pollution by 2025.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: Interior reprimands more than 1,500 for misconduct | EPA removes 22 Superfund sites from list | DOJ nominee on environment nears confirmation EPA removes 22 cleaned-up sites from Superfund list New EPA chief liked racist Obama memes, retweeted conspiracy theorist 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.