The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking steps to ax a rule on reduction of greenhouse gases set in place by President Donald Trump’s predecessor, former President Barack Obama.
The agency announced on Wednesday that it will be giving a 90-day stay to a 2016 rule governing methane production connected to oil drilling and its leaks at drilling sites as well as rules setting equipment and employee certification standards.
The regulation, part of a federal methane reduction strategy that Trump has already scrapped, was aimed at cutting 520,000 short tons of methane pollution by 2025. It was supposed to go into effect on June 3.
According to an EPA statement, “Using its Clean Air Act authority, the agency is issuing a 90-day stay of the fugitive emissions, pneumatic pumps, and professional engineer certification requirements from the 2016 rule.”
Drillers “do not need to comply with these requirements while the 90-day stay is in effect,” according to the agency, and said the change is “in line with President Trump’s Energy Independence Executive Order, which directed the agency to review the oil and gas rules.”
Methane is the second most common greenhouse. Although it only lasts in the atmosphere for 20 years, it is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat and causing global warming.
The decision has already upset several environment preservation groups, a coalition of which sent a letter to EPA head Scott Pruitt last week urging him to not repeal the regulations.
“Suspending these requirements would allow thousands of newly drilled or modified wells and compressor stations across the country to continue leaking large volumes of this harmful air pollution, posing serious health risks to communities, families, and workers,” the letter read. “Such an action would leave the people living and working in these communities unprotected while delaying modest compliance expenditures by the oil and gas companies that own and operate new and modified wells -- expenditures that represent a tiny fraction of these companies' tens of billions of dollars in annual revenues.”
Environmental groups pledged to block to get legal assistance to block the EPA’s move in court.
“The Trump administration is giving its friends in the oil and gas industry a free pass to continue polluting our air," said David Doniger, director of the climate and clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We will fight Trump’s latest polluter giveaway in court.”
The decision to roll back methane regulations comes on the heels of Canada starting the process of tightening its environmental standards. Both Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced their methane reduction rules together in 2016.