The Trump administration announced on Thursday it would suspend or delay key requirements of an Obama-era global warming regulation to reduce methane emissions on federal lands.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will delay portions of the Obama administration’s methane flaring until 2019 to give the agency time to review the rule. BLM found the oil and gas industry would be “unnecessarily burdened” by a regulation that may be rewritten.
“As we strengthen America’s energy independence, we need to make sure that regulations do not unnecessarily encumber energy production, constrain economic growth, or prevent job creation,” BLM Deputy Director for Policy and Programs Brian Steed said in a statement.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke ordered BLM to review the rule as part of an effort to repeal regulations that burden energy production. However, a federal court ruled in October the BLM’s previous attempt to delay the methane rule violated the Administrative Procedures Act.
“By holding off on certain requirements, the BLM now has sufficient time to review the 2016 final rule while avoiding any compliance costs on industry that may not be needed after the review,” Steed said.
BLM’s announcement comes two days after the oil and gas industry announced a voluntary program to cut methane emissions. So far, 27 companies have signed on to reduce emissions and pollutants.
The Obama administration finalized the methane flaring rule in 2016 as part of its plan to fight global warming. Officials also said forcing oil companies to install new equipment to reduce venting and flaring would also increase royalties to taxpayers.
Obama’s methane rule was estimated to cost $1.8 billion, and was finalized as one of many “midnight” regulations pushed through in the final weeks of his administration.
Environmentalists defended the rule as necessary for cutting down methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Without tackling methane, President Barack Obama would not be able to meet his Paris climate accord pledge.
“BLM’s methane rule would help fight climate change and protect our public lands and communities,” Lena Moffitt, a Sierra Club campaigner, said in a statement. “Undermining these protections is a slap in the face to the majority of Americans who support them, and to the many people who will breathe polluted air as a result.”
The oil and gas industry disagreed, and trade associations the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Western Energy Alliance filed suit in 2016 to have the regulation struck down. Both groups hailed the BLM’s decision to suspend parts of the rule.
“It makes no sense for companies to comply with a rule that is being significantly rewritten,” Kathleen Sgamma, president of Western Energy Alliance, said in a statement.
BLM estimated the methane rule would only reduce 0.0092% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
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