Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Trump Lets Fracking Companies Release More Climate-Warming Methane

Politics
Oil and gas companies flare natural gas that cannot be processed or sold. Varodrig / Wikimedia Commons

As expected, the U.S. Department of the Interior on Tuesday released a final rule that reverses Obama-era restrictions on methane emissions from oil and gas operations.

President Obama's 2016 methane waste rule, which never went into effect, required fossil fuel companies on tribal and public lands to reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that's about 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. It called on drilling operators to capture leaking and vented methane and to update their leak-detection equipment.


Had it been finalized, as The New York Times noted, it would have cut methane from the oil and gas sector by as much as 35 percent and helped the U.S. reach emissions-reduction targets under the Paris agreement.

But the Trump administration said Tuesday that many parts of the 2016 rule were "unnecessarily burdensome" on the private sector, and found that it overlapped with existing state, tribal and federal regulations.

The fossil fuel industry cautioned that the Obama rule could cost as much as $279 million to implement and would hinder production, according to The New York Times.

The Obama administration estimated their "common-sense" rule would avoid nearly 170,000 tons of methane emissions annually and save the U.S. between $115 to $188 million per year by allowing oil and gas operators to sell recovered natural gas, in addition to the environmental benefits of reducing methane emissions.

However, the Obama administration's figures could be outdated, as the rate of methane leaks in the U.S. is likely much higher than previously thought. A recent study published in Science found that U.S. oil and natural gas operations release 60 percent more methane than currently estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Yearly methane emissions from the oil and gas industry total 13 million metric tons (approximately 14.3 million U.S. tons), mostly from leaks—an amount of natural gas that could heat 10 million homes.

The Obama rule was also widely supported by the public. A 2017 poll found 81 percent of Western voters surveyed said they supported leaving the methane waste rule in place.

Environmental organizations condemned the Trump administration's latest environmental rollback and criticized Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for siding with oil and gas interests.

"Actions like these continue to show that this Interior Department and Secretary Zinke are not interested in managing and sustaining our public lands for generations to come but are instead focused on satisfying the wish-list of oil and gas developers," The Wilderness Society president Jamie Williams said in a statement received by EcoWatch.

In a press release, the Sierra Club warned that methane is not only a potent climate pollutant, but the gas is also often accompanied by toxic air pollutants such as benzene that could threaten the health of residents who live nearby oil and gas operations.

Lena Moffitt, senior director of the Sierra Club's Our Wild America campaign, condemned the Trump administration's "ongoing assault on clean air, public lands, our health, and our climate."

"Millions of Americans and diverse stakeholders weighed in when this commonsense standard was developed, and the only people who want to see it weakened are fossil fuel industry executives who don't want to be held accountable for the threats their outdated and reckless practices pose to the public," Moffitt said in the press release. "We've already successfully defended these protections in court and in Congress, and the fight won't stop here."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Deserted view of NH24 near Akshardham Temple on day nine of the 21-day nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus on April 2, 2020 in New Delhi, India. Raj K Raj / Hindustan Times via Getty Images

India is home to 21 of the world's 30 most polluted cities, but recently air pollution levels have started to drop dramatically as the second-most populated nation endures the second week of a 21-day lockdown amidst coronavirus fears, according to The Weather Channel.

Read More Show Less
A Unicef social mobilizer uses a speaker as she carries out public health awareness to prevent the spread and detect the symptoms of the COVID-19 coronavirus by UNICEF at Mangateen IDP camp in Juba, South Sudan on April 2. ALEX MCBRIDE / AFP / Getty Images

By Eddie Ndopu

  • South Africa is ground zero for the coronavirus pandemic in Africa.
  • Its townships are typical of high-density neighbourhoods across the continent where self-isolation will be extremely challenging.
  • The failure to eradicate extreme poverty is a threat beyond the countries in question.
Read More Show Less
Sponsored
The outside of the Food and Drug Administration headquarters in White Oak, Md. on Nov. 9, 2015. Al Drago / CQ Roll Call

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of two malarial drugs to treat and prevent COVID-19, the respiratory infection caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, despite only anecdotal evidence that either is proven effective in treating or slowing the progression of the disease in seriously ill patients.

Read More Show Less
Some speculate that the dissemination of the Antarctic beeches or Nothofagus moorei (seen above in Australia) dates to the time when Antarctica, Australia and South America were connected. Auscape / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

A team of scientists drilled into the ground near the South Pole to discover forest and fossils from the Cretaceous nearly 90 million years ago, which is the time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, as the BBC reported.

Read More Show Less
The recovery of elephant seals is one of the "signs of hope" that scientists say show the oceans can recover swiftly if we let them. NOAA / CC BY 2.0

The challenges facing the world's oceans are well known: plastic pollution could crowd out fish by 2050, and the climate crisis could wipe out coral reefs by 2100.

Read More Show Less