Trump administration to relax restrictions on methane, a powerful greenhouse gas

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The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce today rollbacks to the federal regulation of methane emissions, a powerful greenhouse gas linked to climate change, strongly limiting standards created during the Obama administration. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will aim to eliminate federal requirements for oil and gas companies to install technology to inspect for and fix methane leaks from wells, pipelines, and storage facilities. "The more gas we keep in our pipes and equipment, the more we can provide to the market - and the faster we can all move toward a lower-carbon future". Shell U.S. President Gretchen Watkins told The Washington Post on Thursday that the company will stick to its own plan to lessen methane leaks. Many others in the oil and industry have welcomed the easing, however.

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. The gas has more than 80 times the heat-trapping potential of carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after it escapes into the atmosphere, scientists say.

"The rule changes inject more regulatory uncertainty into the system and is a rejection of the vast and increasing body of science that shows that climate change is affecting humans around the globe and right here in IN", she added. 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. "Despite the Administration's proposal to no longer regulate methane, Shell's U.S. assets will continue to contribute to that global target", said Gretchen Watkins, the president of its US-based business.

In a statement describing the proposal, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler reiterated an argument against such regulations often used by the oil and gas industry: "The Trump Administration recognizes that methane is valuable, and the industry has an incentive to minimize leaks and maximize its use".

The Trump administration points out that US methane emissions are on a downward trend, and argues that will continue, despite the rollback to regulations.

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"Despite the administration's proposal to no longer regulate methane, Shell's United States assets will continue to contribute to that global target", she said.

Environmentalists vowed to challenge the move in court, if the EPA finalizes its proposal.

Sen. Tom Carper of DE, 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".

Once the EPA's new proposal is published in the Federal Register, there is a 60-day window for public comment and a public hearing will be held.

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