The Trump administration will announce a two-year delay in implementing a 2016 Obama-era rule intended to curb methane emissions from natural gas drilling on public lands.
The Republican-controlled Senate failed in May to repeal the rule, so the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management is taking action itself, according to a filing in the Federal Register.
Industry and environmental groups were quick to react to the Interior Department’s delay on Thursday.
“Once again, we see the Trump administration doing the bidding of oil and gas companies rather than looking out for public health and the future of the planet,” said Sarah Uhl, a program director for Clean Air Task Force. “We will do everything we can to make sure that the oil and gas industry takes all necessary steps to prevent waste and pollution from its operations on public lands.”
The delay comes after energy companies and a major industry group recently announced programs to voluntarily reduce emissions of methane.
Methane, the main component in natural gas, is more potent than carbon dioxide, although its emissions are relatively short-lived.
The week, the American Petroleum Institute, the largest oil and gas lobbying group in Washington, announced a new program aimed at reducing emissions of methane from oil and natural gas production. Participants include Chevron, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil.
Separately, Exxon, BP and Shell are among eight oil companies that pledged last month to reduce emissions of methane from natural gas production.
The companies didn't make any specific emissions reductions targets, but they promised to “continually reduce methane emissions; advance strong performance across gas value chains; improve accuracy of methane emissions data; advocate sound policies and regulations on methane emissions; and increase transparency.”
The vow by the energy companies to “advocate sound policies and regulations on methane” is especially noteworthy because the Trump administration is trying to repeal Obama-era methane regulations, such as the BLM rule.
API, in its program, however, did not advocate for regulations, although the group says it would welcome “cost-effective” rules.
“While the BLM’s authority in this area is limited, we are taking action through innovation and technology advancements in our operations to successfully capture and reduce methane emissions, the main component of natural gas,” said Erik Milito, director of API's upstream and industry operations. “We welcome BLM’s efforts to get this right and encourage the agency to develop an achievable rule in the months ahead that serves to prevent waste and conserve resources while encouraging energy production on federal lands.”