The US President Donald Trump administration is scrapping his predecessor Barack Obama's regulations on methane limitation requirements in American energy industries, according to the US' Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday.
The EPA said in a statement that the new rule removes methane control requirements during production and processing of oil and gas. It said methane regulations imposed by a decision called '2016 Oil and Natural Gas New Source Performance Standards' was "both improper and redundant."
The rule also exempts low production oil and gas wells from expending significant funds to monitor methane leaks, arguing small businesses do not have same access to capital as larger companies in detecting and fixing methane leaks.
"Regulatory burdens put into place by the Obama-Biden Administration fell heavily on small and medium-sized energy businesses," EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in the statement.
Deputy Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes said the new rule will provide relief to American energy companies by "reducing the massive cost of complying with unnecessary overregulation from the federal government, allowing them to instead spend their resources on job creation and energy development."
The new rule comes at a time when US oil and gas industries are struggling to avoid bankruptcy in a weak oil and gas price environment, and the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is causing high unemployment and contraction among those sectors and the US economy in general.
However, when methane, which is emitted during production and transportation of oil, natural gas and coal, is released from leaks before it is burned properly, it is much more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) as a heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere.
In its overview of greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, the EPA said methane had a 10% share in total emissions, while CO2 had 81% share.
"Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that is 87 times more powerful than carbon dioxide during the time it remains in the atmosphere," the Sierra Club, an environmental organization in US, said in a statement.
"The only people who will benefit from gutting these commonsense protections are the oil and gas executives seeking a free pass to release even more harmful air pollution while the public pays the price," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in the statement.
By Ovunc Kutlu