Trump’s EPA to propose retreat on methane rules for oil wells

By Jennifer A. Dluohy on 8/29/2019

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is set to unveil a proposal that would step back from federal regulation specifically targeting methane emissions at oil and gas facilities, potentially staving off requirements for a million existing U.S. wells.

A White House review of the proposal has been concluded, setting the stage for Thursday’s announcement, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named before the decision has been made public.

Under the proposal, parts of the oil and gas industry — such as production from individual wells and natural gas transmission — would be considered distinct, separate segments.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in May that if the oil and gas sector were split, it wasn’t clear methane emissions from those sources would be high enough to trigger Clean Air Act controls.

The proposal comes at a time of increasing anxiety about the effects of climate change. It also threatens to undermine the oil industry’s sales pitch that natural gas is a climate-friendly source of electricity -- a cleaner-burning alternative to coal that can help power an energy-hungry world for decades to come.

Dozens of oil companies have made voluntary pledges to keep methane in check, and some have warned the Trump administration that federal regulation specifically targeting it is essential for natural gas to maintain that reputation.

“Stakeholder confidence in natural gas is hanging by the thread, and the EPA is pulling out the scissors with this methane rollback,” Ben Ratner, a senior director with the Environmental Defense Fund’s energy innovation arm, said earlier this month.

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