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Report: Trump administration to end federal methane leak regulation

The Trump administration is planning to end direct federal regulation of methane leaks from oil and gas facilities despite some energy companies saying they do not want the relief, Bloomberg reported Aug. 14.

A draft proposal from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would stop the federal government from directly targeting methane leaks as it restricts emissions from oil wells and facilities, the report said.

People familiar with the matter told Bloomberg that the White House is finishing its review of the proposal ahead of a formal announcement that is expected to be made within weeks.

The EPA intends to justify the move by treating portions of the oil and gas industry as distinct, separate segments, then arguing that the methane emissions associated with them do not merit direct regulation, according to people familiar with the proposal.

Bloomberg said more than 60 oil and gas companies have made voluntary commitments to curtail methane emissions, though some companies insist that federal regulation is necessary for the industry.

In 2016, the administration of then-President Barack Obama targeted the oil industry's methane emissions by requiring companies to frequently find and plug leaks, the report said.

Bloomberg said the Obama-era mandates on new wells prompted a legal requirement that the EPA also regulate methane emissions from existing oilfield infrastructure. However, plugging leaks on old, low-producing wells could be an expensive and unruly burden that would disproportionately fall on smaller, independent oil companies, Bloomberg said.

Current EPA requirements, which focus on curbing the release of volatile organic compounds at oil and gas wells, would still indirectly pare methane emissions at the sites, the report noted.