EPA Administrator Withdraws Methane Emissions Requirement

No surprise here. Scott Pruitt agreed with nine state attorney generals, including his replacement in Oklahoma, to reverse a request enacted by his predecessor to require oil and gas drillers to record information on the release of methane emissions.

3 minute read

March 6, 2017, 9:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid

While the request may seem a logical step toward reducing methane emissions, the oil and gas industry viewed it as 'burdensome.' Look for more use of that term as it was repeated as an explanation as to why the fuel efficiency standards will be relaxed, expected in an upcoming announcement on Tuesday from the Trump administration.

The election of Donald Trump, and the Feb. 17 confirmation of Scott Pruitt as McCarthy's replacement, provided an opportunity for the oil industry to have the information request rescinded.

On March 1, EPA "received a letter (pdf) from nine state Attorneys General and the Governors of Mississippi and Kentucky, expressing concern with the burdens on businesses imposed by the pending requests," according to a March 2 notice (pdf) signed by Administrator Pruitt in which he cancels the prior administration's request:

The withdrawal is occurring because EPA would like to assess the need for the information that the agency was collecting through these requests, and reduce burdens on businesses while the Agency assesses such need.

Pruitt's decision to side with the state AGs was never in doubt as he enjoyed a "remarkably close relationship [with] the oil and gas industry while he served as Oklahoma’s attorney general," according to a report based on Pruitt's emails by Alleen Brown and Sharon Lerner for The Intercept. The emails, released four days after Pruitt's confirmations after ruling by an Oklahoma County District judge, show "oil and gas industry operatives drafting and editing text Pruitt submitted to a federal agency."

On May 2, 2013, Scott Pruitt and 12 other attorneys general sent a letter to the EPA urging the agency to avoid regulating methane emissions. The emails released [Feb. 21]  make clear that [Oklahoma City-based] Devon Energy had a hand in drafting the letter, which argued that voluntary industry efforts to restrict emissions were sufficient, that federal emissions estimates were inaccurate, and that regulating methane fell outside the purview of the law.

The withdrawal of the request was met with dismay by the environmental community.

"With this action, Administrator Pruitt is effectively telling oil and gas companies to go ahead and withhold vital pollution data from the American public," Mark Brownstein, vice president climate and energy at the Environmental Defense Fund, said in an interview with  “This was a good faith effort on the part of the agency to collect additional information on oil and gas industry operations and the pollution that comes from them."

Without the methane emission data, it will be difficult to determine if existing regulations are working, and how to further reduce emissions. As power plants shift away from coal to burning more natural gas, methane emissions have increased relative to carbon dioxide emissions, the most prevalent greenhouse gas.

The withdrawal of the methane information request comes on top of somewhat related methane legislation that passed the House last month using the Congressional Review Act: to rescind a U.S. Department of the Interior rule that limits methane flaring on public land." However, the rescission may have run out of steam as the Senate has yet to act on H.J.Res.36.

Friday, March 3, 2017 in The Washington Post

Aerial view of Oceanwide Plaza skyscrapers covered with graffiti tags.

LA’s Abandoned Towers Loom as a “$1.2 Billion Ruin of Global Capital”

Oceanwide Plaza, shuttered mid-construction after its developer filed for bankruptcy, has stood vacant on prime Los Angeles real estate since 2019.

May 21, 2024 - The Architect's Newspaper

Entrance to a drive-through car wash at night with green 'Enter' sign.

Ohio Towns Move to Ban New Car Washes

City officials in northeast Ohio are putting limits on how many car wash facilities can open in their towns.

May 16, 2024 - News 5 Cleveland

Ornate, tan stone capitol building with a gold dome roof and low-rise city buildings in the background.

States Are Banning Guaranteed Income Programs

Four states now have laws in place that prevent cities and counties from creating or continuing guaranteed income programs, and several more have tried or are trying.

May 23, 2024 - Bloomberg CityLab

Close-up of apartment rental listing on iPad or tablet device.

Colorado Becomes First State in US to Regulate AI for Bias

Under the new law, developers, deployers, and businesses using AI systems at “high-risk” for bias discrimination in critical areas like housing will be required to account for risks and be transparent about how the technology is being used.

53 minutes ago - People of Color in Tech

3D rendering of blue flying car over a cityscape and buildings, a river, and bridges in the background.

Minnesota Legalizes Flying Cars

A new Minnesota law outlines state registration of “roadable aircraft” and legalizes their use on state roads and highways.

1 hour ago - The U.S. Sun

Green highway signs on Highway 23 for Ann Arbor and Flint, Michigan.

Michigan DOT Nixes Ann Arbor Highway Expansion

In response to public feedback, the Michigan Department of Transportation is no longer considering options to widen U.S. 23 on Ann Arbor’s east side.

2 hours ago - MLive

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.