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New Federal Proposal Seeks To Roll Back Methane Regulations

A gas flare, used to burn off flammable gas -- on Highway 59 from Gillette
Cooper McKim
Wyoming Public Radio

The Trump administration is proposing a rule that would make it easier for oil and gas companies to release methane emissions — a potent greenhouse gas – into the air. The proposal targets an Obama-era policy pushing energy companies to fix gas leaks.

The proposed rule seeks to reduce how often leak inspections must occur and limit emissions reporting requirements. It also would allow some natural gas processors not to be monitored at all.

Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, said these changes will make leak detection and prevention more efficient by cutting back "needless record-keeping and red tape."

“So that you’re not spending a lot of time and money going back to the same well pad that’s still not leaking,” She said, “well, wouldn’t time and effort better be spent where this is a problem?"

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the revisions would result in yearly cost savings of $75 million with a 3 percent discount rate, or $66 million with a 6 percent discount rate.

The EPA also admitted the roll back would result in more methane emissions. A press release from the Environmental Defense Fund calculated what that would look like.

"The proposal would severely weaken protections that have been in effect for a year, diminishing vital safeguards that would otherwise prevent 300,000 short tons of methane pollution,” and more, according the press release. “150,000 short tons of smog-forming pollutants, and 1,900 short tons of toxic pollutants per year by 2020, with further reductions by 2025.”

The release added that companies like Exxon Mobile, which operates in Wyoming, are taking their own approach to reducing methane emissions. The company along with BP recently announced its commitment to lower methane regulations.

Before Wyoming, Cooper McKim has reported for NPR stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina. He's reported breaking news segments and features for several national NPR news programs. Cooper is the host of the limited podcast series Carbon Valley. Cooper studied Environmental Policy and Music. He's an avid jazz piano player, backpacker, and podcast listener.
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