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Trump administration rolls back Obama-era methane regulations

The Trump administration on Thursday lifted restrictions on methane leaks, rolling back Obama-era regulations on the greenhouse gas. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
The Trump administration on Thursday lifted restrictions on methane leaks, rolling back Obama-era regulations on the greenhouse gas. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 13 (UPI) -- The Trump administration on Thursday rolled back Obama-era regulations limiting methane gas emissions from oil and gas fields.

The new rule rescinds authority to regulate methane granted to the Environmental Protection Agency under President Barack Obama in 2016 and transfers regulation of methane to the Clean Air Act, as part of an ongoing effort by President Donald Trump to cut federal regulations.

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"EPA has been working hard to fulfill President Trump's promise to cut burdensome and ineffective regulations for our domestic energy industry," EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said Thursday. "Regulatory burdens put into place by the Obama-Biden Administration fell heavily on small and medium-sized energy businesses. 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."

The rule exempts low production wells from "expending significant funds" to monitor methane leaks, reduces monitoring of leaks at gathering and boosting compressor stations from quarterly to twice a year and allows companies to comply with state requirements rather than EPA requirements.

The EPA first proposed loosening the regulations last year, saying it would save the natural gas industry "millions of dollars in compliance costs each year -- while maintaining health and environmental regulations on oil and gas sources that the agency considers appropriate."

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The Obama administration took action to limit pollution related to methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, as part of a package of climate change regulations aiming to cut 520,000 short tons of methane within the next decade.

On Thursday, the National Resources Defense Council said it would take legal action against the Trump administration over the rule.

"Trump's EPA has given the oil and gas industry a green light to keep leaking enormous amounts of climate pollution into the air," said David Doniger, senior strategic director of NRDC's Climate and Clean Energy Program.

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