EPA Gives Oil, Gas Industry Another Pass to Leak More Methane

This is the second time the agency is trying to roll back a rule that protects public health and helps the fight against climate change.

In yet another gift to the fossil fuel industry, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today proposed—for the second time now—to roll back protections that keep methane gas, which is both a threat to people’s health and a major driver of climate change, from unnecessarily leaking out of new oil and gas facilities. “The Trump administration is at it again—giving multimillion-dollar handouts to deep-pocketed polluters at the expense of the American people,” says David Doniger, director of NRDC’s Climate & Clean Energy program.

The EPA's New Source Performance Standards, an Obama-era safeguard, reduces the air pollution that triggers asthma attacks and increases cancer risks for those living near oil and gas facilities. The protection also fights global warming by limiting methane emissions—the second-biggest driver of climate change after carbon dioxide—from its largest U.S. industrial source, the oil and gas sector. “The EPA is proposing to weaken commonsense rules,” Doniger says. "It's a startling contrast to the leaders from across the country and around the world who are coming together at the Global Climate Action Summit this week in a united effort to combat climate change."

According to a 2014 report by NRDC and others, the EPA can cut methane pollution in half, all while dramatically reducing other harmful air pollutants, by issuing federal standards for new and existing oil and gas infrastructure nationwide. Americans overwhelmingly support federal efforts like these to curb methane pollution, according to the American Lung Association.

The EPA’s New Source Performance Standards were already in place for nearly a year when the Trump administration, just two months after the president took office—first proposed rolling them back for new oil and gas operations. NRDC and partner groups sued, arguing it was a violation of the Clean Air Act, and won in July 2017. Simultaneously, the Trump administration’s Bureau of Land Management is also making moves to roll back its own methane pollution protections.

“We will not stop fighting this administration’s brazen efforts to put people’s health, and our children’s future, at risk,” Doniger says.

About the Authors

Join Us

When you sign up you'll become a member of NRDC's Activist Network. We will keep you informed with the latest alerts and progress reports.