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Feds Propose Rolling Back Climate Change Protections

The burning of excess methane deprives states of royalties they would collect if the methane were brought to market. (CK Lund/FrakTracker)
The burning of excess methane deprives states of royalties they would collect if the methane were brought to market. (CK Lund/FrakTracker)
August 30, 2019

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Oil and gas companies will no longer have to put in pollution controls that help in the fight against climate change – if a revised rule announced by the feds on Thursday is finalized.

The Environmental Protection Agency is revising the Obama-era Methane Waste Rule, which required companies to capture excess methane rather than burn it or let it escape into the air. Mitch Jones, climate and energy program director with Food and Water Watch, says methane is a destructive greenhouse gas.

"Over a 20-year period, methane traps 86 times more heat in our atmosphere than carbon dioxide does,” says Jones. “Those emissions are really forcing short-term rapid heating and making climate change much worse."

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, himself a former energy lobbyist, defended the change, saying it lifts an unnecessary burden on the oil and gas industry. A 60-day public comment period on regulations.gov will commence once the rule is published in the Federal Register.

Jones says some oil and gas companies actually didn't want the rule rolled back, because it allowed them to claim that their operations are climate-conscious.

"They're actually using the existing rule to greenwash a climate-destroying product, which is fracked gas,” says Jones.

California has a large oil-and-gas industry that is spread across 10 counties but is most active in the central valley. Studies have linked methane pollution to increased incidence of low-birthweight babies and respiratory disease in communities upwind of fossil-fuel facilities.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA