Continuing its relentless "assault on clean air, public lands, our health, and our climate," the Trump administration on Tuesday gutted a major Obama-era rule that required oil and gas companies to reduce methane emissions and take certain measures to prevent leaks on public lands.
"By rolling back these rules, BLM is enabling fossil-fuel extractors to pollute with impunity instead of using proven, readily available technology to reduce waste."
—Jeremy Martin, Union of Concerned Scientists
Unveiled by the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Trump administration's revised rule (pdf) dramatically rolls back restrictions on methane emissions, which are a major driver of the climate crisis.
"This is a short-sighted decision that betrays BLM's responsibilities to taxpayers and will exacerbate climate change," Jeremy Martin, senior scientist in the Clean Vehicles Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement. "By rolling back these rules, BLM is enabling fossil-fuel extractors to pollute with impunity instead of using proven, readily available technology to reduce waste. What's worse is that at a time when the dangers of climate change are becoming ever more clear, BLM is choosing to increase emissions of methane, a potent contributor to global warming."
Robin Cooley, staff attorney at Earthjustice, added that the Trump administration's methane rule rollback "is once again taking its marching orders from the oil and gas industry while ignoring taxpayers and people who are living every day with the devastating impacts of drilling in their backyards."
"Repealing a common-sense rule that saves taxpayers money and protects our health from pollution is irrational," Cooley added.
BREAKING: @SecretaryZinke has chosen to steamroll the public by gutting the BLM methane waste rule.
— Moms Clean Air Force (@CleanAirMoms) September 18, 2018
According to the New York Times, the oil and gas industry is set to profit massively from the Trump administration's far less restrictive methane rule.
"If implemented, the proposal would recoup nearly all the costs to the oil and gas industry that would have been imposed by the Obama-era regulation," the Times noted last week. "The EPA estimated that rule would have cost companies about $530 million by 2025. The EPA estimates that the proposed changes would save the oil and gas industry $484 million by the same year."
In a statement on Tuesday denouncing the White House's latest gift to the fossil fuel industry, Lena Moffitt—senior director of Sierra Club's Our Wild America campaign—vowed to take the Trump administration to court.
"We've already successfully defended these protections in court and in Congress, and the fight won't stop here," Moffitt concluded.