87 lawmakers ask EPA to reverse course after rescinding methane regulations

87 lawmakers ask EPA to reverse course after rescinding methane regulations
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A coalition of 87 House lawmakers is asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to withdraw its latest rules rescinding standards for methane emissions in the oil and gas industry.

“Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases driving climate change — 84 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in the first two decades after its release,” the members wrote in the letter, which was signed by 85 Democrats and two Republicans. 

“This anti-science approach to rule making at the EPA is unacceptable," they added.

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The EPA earlier this month finalized two different rules that rescind methane standards, something the agency’s own analysis finds will increase methane emissions through the end of the decade by 400,000 tons and 450,000 tons, respectively.

EPA said it would respond to the letter through the appropriate channels. 

The agency said earlier this month that its rule would be a help to oil and gas companies, who were expected to monitor and prevent methane leaks throughout the course of the drilling process.

“Regulatory burdens put into place by the Obama-Biden Administration fell heavily on small and medium-sized energy businesses," EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOvernight Energy: Smoke from wildfires has reached Europe | EPA postpones environmental justice training | UN report: Countries have failed to meet a single target to protect wildlife in last decade EPA postpones environmental justice training after White House memo OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats tee up vote on climate-focused energy bill next week | EPA reappoints controversial leader to air quality advisory committee | Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to 'forever chemicals' MORE said in a statement. "Today’s regulatory changes remove redundant paperwork, align with the Clean Air Act, and allow companies the flexibility to satisfy leak-control requirements by complying with equivalent state rules."

But major oil companies have opposed the new rules.

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“Direct federal regulation of methane emissions is essential to preventing leaks throughout the industry and protecting the environment,” BP America Chairman and President David Lawler told The Hill in a statement shortly after the new rules were released. 

“We strongly believe that the best way to tackle this problem is through direct federal regulation, ensuring that everyone in the industry is doing everything they can to eliminate methane leaks," he said.

Rescinding the methane standards could make it harder for future administrations to fight climate change, not just because of the release of heat-trapping gases, but by eliminating an avenue for EPA to regulate similar greenhouse gases. 

The new agency rules set the stage for rollbacks to other pollutants by arguing that the EPA under former President Obama did not sufficiently define what constitutes a “significant” contribution to climate change under the Clean Air Act.

The EPA intends to put forth another rule with a definition for "significant," with the methane rule stating that it could apply its new criteria in future decisions.

“The most recent amendments the EPA has finalized will reverse the United States’ progress on this issue — taking us from being a global leader to returning to the back of the pack,” lawmakers wrote in the letter spearheaded by Rep. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGette87 lawmakers ask EPA to reverse course after rescinding methane regulations Overnight Health Care: Supreme Court to hear ObamaCare arguments 1 week after election | NYC positive COVID-19 tests hit record low With Biden, advocates sense momentum for lifting abortion funding ban MORE (D-Colo.).