Overnight Energy: Major oil companies oppose Trump admin's methane rollback | Union files unfair labor practice charge against EPA

Overnight Energy: Major oil companies oppose Trump admin's methane rollback | Union files unfair labor practice charge against EPA
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THEY’RE NOT MAD, JUST DISAPPOINTED: Many major oil companies don’t support the Trump administration’s latest move to roll back standards that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The EPA on Thursday finalized rules that, among other things, rescind standards that specifically regulate methane emissions from new sources in the oil and gas industry.

The agency argued that the standards it rescinded were redundant, overlapping regulations regarding volatile organic compounds (VOCs). This differed from an Obama administration finding that while VOC standards “incidentally” reduce methane emissions, a methane-specific standard would cause “meaningful” greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

Companies including Shell, BP and ExxonMobil have expressed opposition to the changes or support for direct methane regulations.

Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is 25 times more impactful than carbon dioxide in equal quantities, according to the EPA.

The greenhouse gas is leaked into the atmosphere during the production, transportation and storage of oil and gas. Natural gas and petroleum systems are the second-largest source of methane emissions in the country, behind agriculture.

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The EPA estimated that the two final rules would, over a 10-year period, increase methane emissions by 400,000 and 450,000 tons respectively. However, the agency said that despite emissions the net benefit of the roll back would be worth between $750 million and $850 million dollars. 

So….what did they have to say about it?

Shell U.S. president Gretchen Watkins in a statement called the newly finalized regulations “frustrating and disappointing. ”

“Shell has consistently urged the Trump Administration to directly regulate methane emissions from existing onshore oil and gas assets. The negative impacts of leaks and fugitive emissions have been widely acknowledged for years, so it’s frustrating and disappointing to see the Administration go in a different direction,” Watkins said. 

“We will continue to advocate for sound policies and participate in the development of technologies that allow us to further reduce our emissions,” she added. 

BP America chairman and president David Lawler similarly said in a statement Thursday that he “respectfully disagrees with today’s decision by the administration.”

“Direct federal regulation of methane emissions is essential to preventing leaks throughout the industry and protecting the environment,” Lawler said. “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.”

While it didn’t have a new statement this week, Exxon has also previously advocated for direct regulation of methane emissions from both new and existing sources. 

Environmentalists have also strongly criticized the roll back, saying it will worsen climate change. 

Remind me, who exactly supports this?

The administration has argued that smaller producers would have the most to gain from the rule changes, which also exempts small wells from monitoring what’s known as "fugitive emissions," or emissions that accidentally leak out during the process. 

Independent Petroleum Association of America Executive Vice President Lee Fuller told The Hill that smaller wells, that are usually operated by smaller companies, are less able to afford the cost of complying with fugitive emissions monitoring. 

“Low production wells have been subjected to very costly technology," Fuller said. 

Read more about the criticism here.

 

STILL IN DISCORD, EVEN AFTER AGREEMENT: A union representing thousands of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees has filed an unfair labor practices charge against the agency, formally accusing it of violating employee rights.

In the charge, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) union says that Associate Deputy Administrator Douglas Benevento “falsely disparaged and threatened the union and employees” in May and that Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA head questions connection of climate change to natural disasters | Pebble Mine executives eye future expansion in recorded conversations | EPA questions science linking widely used pesticide to brain damage in children EPA head questions connection of climate change to natural disasters OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Wheeler seeks to paint EPA regulatory rollbacks as environmentally friendly | Former EPA chiefs endorse Biden, criticize agency under Trump | White House opposes House energy bill as Democrats promise climate action MORE made false statements about bargaining in July during meetings with regional staff. 

AFGE said that Benevento implied the EPA was unwilling to deal with the union because it shared agency communication with the media “despite the fact that such activity is protected by law.”

The charge further stated that Wheeler falsely claimed that during contract negotiations, the union refused telework flexibility because it wanted more benefits for its leadership. 

“Wheeler and Benevento’s statements interfered with and chilled the exercise of rights of employees and union representatives. Both statements by Benevento and Wheeler falsely maligning the union were accompanied with threats of penalty or reprisal for the union’s lawful activities,” their charge said. 

In a statement to The Hill, the EPA said that its “offer of increased telework flexibility during negotiations in return for AFGE’s agreement on Official Time and the Negotiated Grievance Procedure is very well documented.”

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“Additionally, after Doug Benevento spoke with AFGE leadership on April 22, EPA received press inquiry almost immediately afterwards asking for comment on the matters in that briefing. When contacted by the Federal Labor Relations Authority, EPA will provide all requested documentation to FLRA and will comply with their investigation,” an EPA spokesperson said. 

The complaint follows the recent union and agency signing a contract after years of disputes. 

The collective agreement includes allowing employees to have up to two days of telework per week, allowing the union to use conference rooms without agency approval and requires the agency to provide personal protective equipment and indoor air quality testing.

Read more about the union’s charge here.

 

EMINENTLY QUOTABLE:

Asked what he was going to do about oil that was seized from four Iranian tankers, President TrumpDonald John TrumpOmar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: 'This is my country' Pelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare Trump mocks Biden appearance, mask use ahead of first debate MORE said Friday, “We’ll be announcing.”

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“We have four tankers. They’re going to Houston, and they're there.  We – they're not supposed to be doing that. Iran’s not supposed to be doing that. And so we did – we seized the tankers, and we're moving them, and moved, to Houston.”

 

OUTSIDE (AND INSIDE) THE BELTWAY:

Facebook tells Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenHarris joins women's voter mobilization event also featuring Pelosi, Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda Judd Gregg: The Kamala threat — the Californiaization of America GOP set to release controversial Biden report MORE it has two different standards for climate fact-checking, The Verge reports

Seven top oil firms downgrade assets by $87bn in nine months, The Guardian reports

Deal reached for Chemours to stop remaining chemical pollution of N.C.River, The Fayetteville Observer reports

E&E News reports on the trip that changed everything for an EPA pioneer

 

ICYMI: Stories from Friday…

Michigan officials: Bald eagle attacked and destroyed government drone

Major oil companies oppose EPA methane rollback

Union files unfair labor practice charge against EPA