Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A gas flare is seen at an oil well site on outside Williston, North Dakota. (Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

'Sociopathic Disregard for Our Future': Trump EPA Set to Gut Restrictions on Planet-Warming Methane Emissions

"At a time when the federal government's job should be to help localities and states move faster toward cleaner energy and a cleaner economy, the government is walking off the field."

Jake Johnson

Amid dire scientific warnings that the international community must act immediately to slash greenhouse gas emissions, President Donald Trump's Environmental Protection Agency is reportedly set to take another step in the opposite direction Thursday by unveiling a rule that would gut restrictions on the fossil fuel industry's methane pollution.

According to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the proposed rule change Thursday, the EPA's plan would scrap regulations requiring the oil and gas industry to "install technologies that monitor and limit leaks from new wells, tanks and pipeline networks and to more frequently inspect for leaks."

"This administration is ultimately driven by sociopathic disregard for our future."
—Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch

"It would also forestall legal requirements that would have forced the EPA to set rules on emissions from thousands of pre-existing wells and industry sites," the Journal reported.

Environmentalists reacted with outrage to the new proposal. "This administration is ultimately driven by sociopathic disregard for our future," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch.

Earthworks policy director Lauren Pagel called the rule "reckless" and said it will "impact millions of families living with oil and gas air pollution in their backyards."

"President Trump once again signaled his ignorance towards the science of climate crisis and his indifference towards public health," said Pagel.

The Trump administration expects the rule, which must go through a 60-day public comment period, to take effect early next year. The rollback was immediately praised by the American Petroleum Institute, a major trade group representing the fossil fuel industry.

Because of methane's potency—some estimates suggest the greenhouse gas has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide—environmentalists and scientists have warned the Trump administration's efforts to gut methane regulations could have disastrous consequences.

"This is extraordinarily harmful," Rachel Kyte, United Nations special representative on sustainable energy, said of the Trump administration's proposed rule change. "Just at a time when the federal government's job should be to help localities and states move faster toward cleaner energy and a cleaner economy, just at that moment when speed and scale is what's at stake, the government is walking off the field."

Trump administration officials, and the president himself, have gleefully touted the White House's success in ramping up American production of methane-emitting natural gas, which Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Steven Winberg infamously described as "molecules of U.S. freedom."

During the G20 summit in Japan in June, Trump said he is "not willing" to take action to curb greenhouse gas emissions because such a move would harm corporate profits.

A report published earlier this year by Oil Change International in collaboration with over a dozen other environmental groups warned that U.S. fossil fuel production has the potential to single-handedly imperil global efforts to combat the climate crisis.

"Right now, we're on a sinking boat, and instead of just scooping water out, we must take immediate action to patch the hole where it's gushing in," said Patrick McCully of the Rainforest Action Network. "This means we must put a full-stop to fossil fuel expansion, or we all sink into climate chaos."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

ACLU Demands 'Truly Systemic Overhaul' of US Civilian Harm Policies

"While a serious Defense Department focus on civilian harm is long overdue and welcome, it's unclear that this directive will be enough," says director of the legal group's National Security Project.

Jessica Corbett ·


'This Is Not Over': Alaska Supreme Court Rejects Youth Climate Case

"With the state continuing to undermine their health, safety, and futures," said the plaintiffs' lead counsel, "we will evaluate our next steps and will continue to fight for climate justice."

Jessica Corbett ·


Analysis Finds 'Staggering' Rise in Voter Suppression After GOP Restrictions in Georgia

"This is why we are fighting this new law in court," said one voting rights advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Egregious': Pennsylvania Court Strikes Down Mail-In Voting Law

The ruling was stayed pending an appeal to the state's Supreme Court and as one voting advocate put it: "The fight's not over yet, folks."

Julia Conley ·


Big Win for Open Internet as Court Upholds California Net Neutrality Law

One legal advocate called the Ninth Circuit's opinion "a great decision and a major victory for internet users in California and nationwide."

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo