Suzanne Potter
Public News Service – CA


SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Conservation groups are slamming a move by the Trump administration to weaken rules on methane emissions from oil and gas operations.

The new rule, proposed on Tuesday, would allow companies to inspect their lines for leaks less often, and take longer to fix issues that arise.

Industry has long claimed the Obama-era rules are too expensive and burdensome. However, Matt Watson, associate vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund’s Energy Program, said methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas that merits a strong federal standard.

“Over 20 years, it’s more than 80 times more powerful than C02 [carbon dioxide] at trapping heat. And, in fact, methane is responsible for about a quarter of the warming that we’re experiencing today,” said Watson.

The EPA will soon publish the proposed rule change in the Federal Register, which will kick off a public comment period. The agency also plans to hold a public hearing in Denver, Colo., but has not yet set a date.

Opponents of the change have vowed to fight any rollback in court.

Watson mentioned that California has taken a lead in battling both climate change and air pollution from natural gas wells, in the wake of the massive gas leak in Aliso Canyon in 2015.

“Last year, the state adopted some of the best methane regulations in the nation,” he said. “At this point, there is no reason to believe that the state rules would be undermined by what the Trump administration is trying to do.”

But Watson noted that California gets most of its natural gas from other states – places that often have much less stringent laws on methane emissions.