Rolling back emissions rules for oil and gas companies is dangerous for the environment and your health.
The Trump administration will soon roll back rules limiting the release of methane gases, a major contributor to climate change and overall air quality, according to reports by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
The move would undo Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules that encouraged oil and gas companies to reduce the methane coming from their sites, including storage locations, pipelines, and wells.
The rules also aimed to prevent oil and gas companies from being “super emitters” of methane gases. Leaks from natural gas wells are responsible for a major portion of total emissions, according to a study by Stanford. These “super emitters” can account for up to 90% of U.S. methane emissions.
Methane traps heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, making it a significant variable contributing to climate change. The gas makes up about 10% of U.S. greenhouse emissions. While it doesn’t last as long as carbon dioxide does in the air, it is at least 25 times more likely to cause warming compared to a greenhouse gas.
Methane is also dangerous to human health. It can seep into groundwater and harm communities that drink or use water from wells, and cause people to lose consciousness due to asphyxia if too much is inhaled. It can also increase the risk of damaging explosions, like the Deepwater Horizon explosion 10 years ago. And its effects on the ozone can cause a long list of health problems like hypertension, asthma, and bronchitis.
The methane-tracking technology encouraged by the Obama administration helped companies regularly check for leaks. Before that, oil and gas companies let the gas pollute the air for more than a century, according to a Reuters report. The EPA found more than 280 kilotons of methane came from millions of abandoned wells in 2018. And those leaks could grow in number due to bankruptcies caused by lower demand in oil and gas during the pandemic.
The Trump administration’s move has been in the works for months and could be officially announced sometime later this week. This would not be the first time the Trump administration rolled back EPA rules that aim to fight climate change, and some argue they’re throwing out protections under the cover of the coronavirus pandemic.