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Trump Rolls Back Restrictions on Methane, Environmentalists and Energy Executives Recoil

Say Contributor

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced plans to strike down regulations designed to stop methane leaks from oil and gas wells. Environmentalists are, obviously, not pleased, but many energy companies are also aghast. Methane Acting The proposal will roll back restrictions from President Barack Obama designed to limit greenhouse emissions, in this case requiring energy companies to use specialized equipment at oil and gas wells to keep production safe, and to search out methane leaks at the sites. The Trump-era EPA was already looking to relax those restrictions, but this measure would do away with them entirely. Heating Up Methane accounts for 10% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, but unfortunately for all things that live on this planet, you get too much bang for your buck. Methane has more than “84 times the heat-trapping potential of carbon dioxide for the first two decades it escapes into the atmosphere, and is at least 28 times more powerful over a century.” Methane leaks have been blamed for a quarter of the planet’s warming. All Natural The EPA said this move would save the oil and natural gas industry at least $17 million a year, but not all energy companies are psyched about the move. Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and BP have gone all-in on selling natural gas around the globe. If these relaxed restrictions result in a methane-leak disaster, it could seriously undermine the companies’ sales pitch that natural gas is a cleaner, safer alternative to fossil fuels. While these companies can voluntarily do their part to prevent leaks, without industry-wide restrictions, there’s no guarantee that smaller, independent companies that might not be inclined to shell out for costly leak-prevention programs won’t make a blunder that ruins the reputation of natural gas, not to mention the environment, for everyone. -Michael Tedder Photo: Nick Oxford/REUTERS {RDS.A, BP, NASDAQ}