Short Summary

The Trump administration is rolling back an Obama-era regulation aimed at curbing methane leaks from oil and gas operations.

General Description

The Obama administration required oil and gas companies to capture leaking and vented methane at existing sites, to gradually update their technology, and to make plans for monitoring escaping gas in order to slow down methane’s contribution to climate change. [Jennifer Ludden, “Trump Administration Eases Regulation of Methane Leaks on Public Lands,” N.P.R. 09/18/18]

Detailed Bill Summary 

  • “Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that, along with carbon dioxide, is considered a primary driver of global warming. It is emitted into the atmosphere mostly from the burning of excess gas, known as flaring, as well as through leaks in gas wells, pumps, and pipelines. Methane accounts for 9 percent of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions, and about a third of that is estimated to come from oil and gas operations.
  • The Obama administration rule would have required oil and gas companies to capture leaked methane, repair outdated leak-detection equipment and come up with new plans to reduce waste. Had it been finalized, it would have cut methane from the oil and gas sector by as much as 35 percent.”
  • The Trump administration rule effectively reverses the Obama rule, reinstating the approximately 30-year-old guidelines that were in place when Trump won the 2016 election. [Lisa Friedman, “Trump Administration Formally Rolls Back Rule Aimed at Limiting Methane Pollution,” N.Y. Times, 09/18/18]
  • Since the rule was suspended on January 8, 2018, the shelved rule has cost taxpayers $219,178 per day in wasted royalty revenue, and a projected $800 million in lost royalties over the next ten years. Interior found that rolling back rule will cost Americans more than $1 billion in wasted natural gas and pollution. [“Up in Flames: Taxpayers Left Out in Cold as Publicly Owned Natural Gas is Caressly Wasted,” Western Values Project, 05/2014]

Current Status

  • The repeal was published in the federal register on September 28, 2018, and went into effect on January 8, 2018. BLM was sued by the Attorneys General for California and New Mexico, as well as by eighteen environmental groups. [“BLM Methane Waste Prevention Rule,” Environmental Law at Harvard]
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Land and Water Conservation Fund