Trump Admin. to Roll Back Rules for Methane, a Major Heat-Trapping Gas - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
Changing Climate

Changing Climate

In-depth coverage of our changing climate and environmental issues

Trump Admin. to Roll Back Rules for Methane, a Major Heat-Trapping Gas

The move would be the latest in a series by the Trump administration easing emissions controls on the oil, gas and coal industries

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Trump Admin. to Roll Back Rules for Methane, a Major Heat-Trapping Gas
    AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File
    In this June 25, 2012, file photo, a crew works on a gas drilling rig at a well site for shale based natural gas in Zelienople, Pa.

    The Trump administration moved Thursday to revoke regulations on methane leaks from oil facilities, a proposal environmental advocates said would renounce key federal authority to regulate the climate-damaging gas.

    The proposed rule follows President Donald Trump's directions to remove "unnecessary and duplicative regulatory burdens from the oil and gas industry," Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement.

    Exxon Mobil and some other oil giants — wary of blowback from growing public concern over global warming — joined environmental groups in urging the Trump administration to drop the rollback on methane controls, although several state-level and national industry groups welcomed the easing.

    The step would be the latest in a series unwinding the Obama administration's efforts to cut climate-changing emissions from the oil, gas and coal industries, including a 2016 rule regulating oil-industry methane leaks as a pollutant under the federal Clean Air Act.

    6 Top Quotes From the Fourth Democratic Presidential Debate

    [NATL] 6 Top Quotes From the Fourth Democratic Presidential Debate

    Take a look at six of the most memorable lines from the fourth Democratic presidential debate held Tuesday night in Ohio.

    (Published Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019)

    Trump has pushed to open vast expanses of U.S. wilderness and coastline to oil and gas drilling, speed construction of petroleum pipelines and ease regulations on the industry, dismissing calls from scientists in and out of government for rapid cuts in oil, gas and coal emissions to stave off the worst of climate change.

    Asked about global warming this week, Trump only lauded the United States' "tremendous wealth." ''The wealth is under its feet," he said, praising oil and gas production.

    Methane, the main component of natural gas, frequently leaks or is intentionally released during drilling operations. It traps far more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, doing 25 times the damage over the long term despite surviving for less time, according to the EPA.

    The oil and gas industry is the nation's primary source of methane emissions, according to the EPA, accounting for nearly one-third in 2016.

    Under Trump, both the Interior Department and the EPA have proposed a series of rules — some blocked by courts — to loosen regulation of methane emissions.

    President Barack Obama's administration had cited legal authority under the Clean Air Act to require companies to detect and stop methane leaks at oil and gas sites. The Trump administration contends that Obama's EPA skipped required legal steps in making that decision, and its proposal Thursday seeks public comment on the issue.

    Trump Announces Turkey Sanctions After Syrian Invasion

    [NATL] Trump Announces Turkey Sanctions After Syrian Invasion

    President Donald Trump is putting new sanctions on Turkey for invading Syria amid blowback from Congress over his sudden decision to pull troops from the area. 

    (Published Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019)

    "Essentially, this is the umpteenth iteration of the EPA's exercise to define away its Clean Air Act authority ... to address air pollution and greenhouse gases," said Joseph Goffman, an EPA air official under Obama.

    Methane levels globally have risen to historic highs, and the oil industry's U.S. shale gas boom has been the single largest driver of that, said Robert Howarth, a professor of ecology at Cornell University.

    "The increase in methane has contributed significantly to the accelerated global warming and climate disruption the Earth has experienced in recent years," Howarth said in an email.

    While environmental groups pointed to the long-term regulatory impact on methane overall, the oil industry said the direct immediate effect for methane emissions would be negligible.

    Controls on other, regulated pollutants would also capture methane before it leaks from pipelines, said Erik Milito of the American Petroleum Institute.

    The Obama-era requirements to find and fix methane leaks imposed "a disproportionate effect on small businesses" in the oil industry, Milito said. "A lot of mom and pops would have their wells shut in, elderly people with wells on their properties that could be shut down" under the rules to be rescinded.

    Current and Former Diplomats to Testify in Impeachment Inquiry

    [NATL] Current and Former Diplomats to Testify in Impeachment Inquiry

    Fiona Hill, President Trump's former top adviser on Russia and Europe, and European Ambassador Gordon Sondland will appear before Congress this week to testify on efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden. NBC's Tracie Potts reports.

    (Published Monday, Oct. 14, 2019)

    But the rollbacks on emissions from oilfields, storage sites and pipelines have split the oil industry, worrying some in the industry about growing blowback in a world increasingly mindful of climate change.

    Some oil majors this year urged the administration to crack down — not ease up — on the emissions. They repeated that request Thursday.

    Royal Dutch Shell has long supported the direct regulation of methane and urged the administration earlier this year to write a rule regulating existing sources of methane emissions.

    "While the law may change in this instance, our environmental commitments will stand," Gretchen Watkins, Shell U.S. president, said in a statement.

    Directly regulating methane emissions and driving down leaks is "not only the right thing to do for the environment, there is also a clear business case for doing this," said Susan Dio, president of BP America, in a statement.

    Exxon Mobil spokesman Scott Silvestri said the oil giant would continue urging EPA — as it has since last year — to stick to directly regulating methane emissions from oil and gas facilities.

    Florida Men Tied to Giuliani, Ukraine Probe Arrested

    [NATL] Florida Men Tied to Giuliani, Ukraine Probe Arrested

    Two associates of President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Guiliani, involved in his efforts in Ukraine, were arrested Wednesday on charges of campaign finance violations. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arrested at Dulles International Airport Wednesday evening while attempting to leave the country with one-way tickets. NBC's Alice Barr reports.

    (Published Friday, Oct. 11, 2019)

    Asked about those requests, Anne Idsal, the EPA's acting assistant administrator for air, told reporters, "We don't preclude anyone from going above and beyond if that's something they want to do."

    Environmental advocates and Democratic lawmakers called the rollback reckless.

    Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, top Democrat on the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee, said, "The Trump administration has continued to pursue a course that would increase profit margins for the oil and gas industry, even if it means cutting commonsense public health and environmental protections."

    The rollbacks on emissions from oilfields, storage sites and pipelines have split the oil industry, worrying some in the industry about growing blowback in a world increasingly mindful of climate change.

    Royal Dutch Shell this year urged the administration to crack down — not ease up — on the emissions. Many others in the oil and industry have welcomed the easing, however. 

    The latest rollback "highlights the Trump administration's complete contempt for our climate," Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group, said in a statement. "The EPA is now so determined to actually increase greenhouse pollution that it's even shrugging off concerns from oil and gas companies about gutting these protections."

    Backlash Against NBA Continues in China

    [NATL] Backlash Against NBA Continues in China

    More NBA events scheduled in China were cancelled Wednesday as backlash from a tweet sent by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey supporting anti-government protests in Hong Kong created tension between the Chinese Government and the NBA.

    (Published Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019)