September 18, 2018 / 5:26 PM / 3 months ago

Trump administration to ease rule on methane leaks on public land

WASHINGTON, Sept 18 (Reuters) - The Trump Administration is slated on Tuesday to roll back an Obama-era rule on emissions of the greenhouse gas methane from oil and gas operations on public lands in its latest step to ease energy industry regulations, environmental groups said.

The Interior Department did not have an immediate comment on the rule but said it would have a press call at 4 p.m. EDT regarding final changes revising the venting and flaring rule.

The rule is aimed at reducing leaks of natural gas, or methane, that occur through venting and flaring during oil and gas production on federal land. The Obama administration said that venting of methane cost taxpayers over $330 million a year in lost revenues from natural gas.

The department in February proposed replacing the so-called Waste Prevention Rule by returning to standards that date back to the 1970s. President Donald Trump had issued an executive order in 2017 directing the department to review the rule that was published late in former President Barack Obama’s second term.

The rule has been challenged in court by industry and some states, including Wyoming.

Last week, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency proposed weakening requirements for testing and repairing methane leaks in drilling operations, the latest step toward rolling back Obama-era regulations to combat climate change.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, and the oil and gas business is the largest single source of the emissions, according to the EPA.

Environmentalists slammed the rollback of the Waste Prevention Rule.

“The Trump administration is relentless in its push to give the oil and gas industry multi-million-dollar handouts at the expense of Americans’ health and environment,” said David Doniger, the Natural Resource Defense Council’s senior strategic director of its climate and clean energy program.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Dan Grebler

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