The Trump administration yesterday announced plans to ease regulations requiring oil and gas companies to repair methane leaks – a move drawing opposition from the industry as well as environmental groups.Methane is a greenhouse gas and a major contributor to climate change. It is emitted during the production and transport of coal, natural gas, and oil and also results from certain agricultural practices.

The agency is proposing to:

  • remove sources in the transmission and storage segment of the oil and gas industry from regulation. These sources include transmission compressor stations, pneumatic controllers, and underground storage vessels.
  • rescind emissions limits for methane, from the production and processing segments of the industry but would keep emissions limits for ozone-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These sources include well completions, pneumatic pumps, pneumatic controllers, gathering and boosting compressors, natural gas processing plants and storage tanks.

In an alternative proposal, EPA would rescind the methane emissions limitations without removing from regulation any sources from the transmission and storage segment of the industry.

The EPA said the proposed changes “would remove regulatory duplication and save the 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.”

If enacted, the changes would weaken the federal government’s ability going forward to enact tougher restrictions on methane – something that is actually opposed by the oil industry.

In a statement, BP President Susan Dio said that the EPA should regulate methane emissions. “It’s not only the right thing to do for the environment, there is also a clear business case for doing this. The more gas we keep in our pipes and equipment, the more we can provide to the market — and the faster we can all move toward a lower-carbon future.”

Smaller operators in the oil industry had lobbied for the methane rule changes, saying the regulation imposed a financial burden on them. However, large oil companies like BP, Exxon Mobile Corp and Royal Dutch Shell have indicated support for policies that limit the release of methane, citing the dangers of climate change.

“Even oil and gas companies think this is too far,” tweeted former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke. “We need a President who will act on climate, not make it worse.” 

President Trump has called climate change “a hoax.”