In this 25 February 2015 photo, a gas flare is seen at a natural gas processing facility near Williston, N.D. The Interior Department on Tuesday, 18 September 2018, finalized the roll back of an Obama-era regulation aimed at restricting harmful methane emissions from oil and gas production on federal lands. Photo: Matthew Brown / AP Photo

By Matthew Brown
18 September 2018

BILLINGS, Montana (AP) – The Trump administration on Tuesday rolled back an Obama-era rule that forced energy companies to capture methane — a key contributor to climate change that’s released in huge amounts during drilling on U.S. and tribal lands.

A replacement rule from the Interior Department rescinds mandates for companies to reduce gas pollution, which Trump administration officials say already is required by some states.

Within hours of the announcement, attorneys general for California and New Mexico filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to reinstate the 2016 rule.

“We’ve sued the administration before over the illegal delay and suspension of this rule and will continue doing everything in our power to hold them accountable to our people and planet,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.

The change by Trump could save companies as much as $2 billion in compliance costs over the next decade. It comes a week after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed weakening a separate methane emissions rule affecting private land and some public lands.

“We’re for clean air and water, but at the same time, we’re for reasonable regulations,” Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told reporters.[…]

The prior regulation would have cut methane emissions by as much as 180,000 tons a year. Emissions of potentially hazardous pollutants known as volatile organic compounds, which can cause health problems if inhaled, would have been reduced by up to 80,000 tons a year.

The change could also result in the loss of $734 million in natural gas that would have been recovered over the next decade under the old rule. Those savings would have offset some of the industry’s compliance costs.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico criticized the rollback as a “giveaway to irresponsible polluters.”

An estimated $330 million a year in methane is wasted on federal lands, enough to power about 5 million homes. [more]

Trump rolls back pollution rules for drilling on US lands

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