Trump Suspends A Major Obama-Era Methane Rule

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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The Trump administration delayed an Obama-era methane emissions regulation until a federal court in Wyoming rules on the legality of it, according to a Department of the Interior document.

The Interior Department issued the delay in light of the regulatory uncertainty created by the pending litigation and the ongoing administrative review.” If the rule had not been delayed, oil and natural gas companies operating on federal lands would have been forced into compliance next January, according to the Federal Register.

The oil and gas industry opposes the regulation, arguing its duplicative of already existing state standards. The industry also self-regulates methane leaks. Environmentalists support the rule, which they claim will reduce methane emissions enough to slow down global warming.

“This action is more evidence that the worst elements of the oil and gas industry are running amok, with an administration only too happy to throw common sense out the window in service of their agenda of indifference to the public interest,” Mark Brownstein, climate vice president at the Environmental Defense Fund, said in a statement.

“Disregarding the will of the people, the interests of taxpayers, and legal safeguards, all in the name of doing the bidding of the oil and gas industry is shameful and, in the end, will be politically disastrous for the Administration, and for the industry,” Brownstein said.

The Obama administration finalized the methane rule in November 2016, shortly after President Donald Trump’s election victory.

The BLM standards would govern how much natural gas companies can emit on federal land. These methane rules are expected to cost as much as $155 million in 2020, rising to $290 to $400 million by 2025. That’s roughly three times more than EPA’s projected cost, according to a study by National Economic Research.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agreed to pause implementation of a separate methane rule Tuesday. EPA does not list the amount of temperature increases adverted in the rule’s press release, even though the rule exists just to limit global warming. Industry groups estimate the rule would only cause a temperature drop of 0.0047 degrees Celsius by the year 2100, an amount so small it couldn’t even be detected.

The Senate could not muster the votes in May to overturn the BLM rule, voting  51 to 49 in favor of it, with Arizona Republican John McCain surprisingly casting the deciding vote to support the Obama administration regulation. If McCain had voted to ax the methane rule, the Senate would have been deadlocked and Vice President Mike Pence would have been able to cast a tie-breaking vote.

House lawmakers had passed a Congressional Review Act (CRA) bill to repeal the methane rule in February. President Donald Trump was expected to sign the measure if it had passed the Senate.

Trump and Congressional Republicans used CRA to repeal $3.7 billion in Obama-era regulations some of which were enacted by the BLM, according to the right-leaning American Action Forum (AAF). If the Senate had voted to repeal the BLM regulation, it would have saved $1.8 billion and eliminate 82,170 hours of paperwork, according to AAF.

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