The Trump administration proposed a revised version of Obama-era methane rules on Monday that favors President Trump's "energy dominance" agenda over duplicative and punishing regulations, according to the Interior Department's land management regulator.
“In order to achieve energy dominance through responsible energy production, we need smart regulations, not punitive regulations,” said Joe Balash, assistant secretary for land and minerals management.
“We believe this proposed rule strikes that balance and will allow job growth in rural America,” he said.
The Obama administration imposed strict regulations on oil and natural gas drillers in 2016 that the Trump administration saw as duplicative with other federal regulations and state requirements that also regulated methane emissions.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas blamed by most climate scientists for causing the phenomenon known as climate change. The 2016 regulations were part of former President Barack Obama's plan to battle climate change.
The Interior Department on Monday said the economic impact of the regulations on drilling operators was underestimated by the Obama administration. "In addition, a review of existing state and federal regulations found considerable overlap with the rule," the agency said.
In response, the Bureau of Land Management is proposing to replace the methane regulations, also known as the venting and flaring rule, with requirements that had been in place before the Obama rules were proposed.
"This proposal would align the regulations with administration priorities on energy development, job creation and reduced compliance costs while also working more closely with existing state regulatory efforts," BLM said.
Senior congressional Republicans praised the action, while environmental groups called it "unconscionable."
“The previous administration scorned domestic energy development and crafted the prior rule to deliberately stifle it," said Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. "This is a necessary step to promote investment in federal and tribal lands so that economies in the west can grow."
Scores of conservation and environmental groups admonished the action as a step backward for the environment.
“Secretary Zinke’s move to eviscerate the Bureau of Land Management’s Methane Waste Prevention rule is unconscionable," said Susann Beug, a Montana resident and member of Northern Plains Resource Council. "We in the west, where the majority of BLM land lays, have already given testimony at hearings and submitted a multitude of written comments in support of this rule."
Lauren Pagel, policy director for the group Earthworks, said the revised methane rules "have put corporate profits ahead of the American taxpayer."