Photo: AP

The Trump administration is still on track to keep regulations on methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon, on the back burner. After putting an Obama-era rule that restricted oil and gas industry methane emissions on hold, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has now begun to rewrite the rule—and its changes will substantially weaken it.

The original rule became final in November 2016. It aimed to reduce the amount of gas wasted through flaring, venting, and leaks during oil and gas production on public and tribal lands, including fracking. The Department of Interior estimated that between 2009 and 2015, these sites lost enough natural gas to power 6 million homes.

Some parts of the rule, including the requirement for waste minimization plans, went into effect in January 2017, but in June, the BLM decided to suspend the rest of the rule until it wrote a new one.

Now, we’re getting our first glimpse at what a revision may look like. The BLM shared the text for the new proposed Methane Waste & Prevention Rule with E&E News Tuesday. People can find the document in the Federal Register later this week (where they can provide public comment), but this latest move keeps the Trump administration in line to meet its January 17, 2019, deadline to implement this new rule instead of former President Barack Obama’s version.

At least seven elements of the original rule will be lost with the new one if the text stays as is. This includes removing waste minimization plans, and regulations on replacing pneumatic controllers, which help moderate the release of natural gas at these facilities. The BLM’s argument? The Clean Air Act and other regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency should suffice.

Advertisement

Oh, and these new regulations will cost industry too much money.

Not only would Obama’s standards have kept energy companies from wasting product, they would also have reduced methane emissions, which contribute to climate change. And because the release of methane is also often accompanied by other pollutants, like benzene and hydrogen sulfide, these regulations would have also helped address health conditions exacerbated by these toxins, including asthma, other lung diseases, and heart disease.

The administration has failed and, well, failed again to outright kill the rule, so now it’s going through the official process of writing a new one even though it says it won’t “substantively change the 2016 final rule.” Mhm, sure.

Advertisement

With the release of this text, the bureau will likely wrap up the final text before the January 2019 deadline—unless the many lawsuits in response have something to say about it.

[h/t E&E News]