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Trump EPA Plan to Gut Emission Rules for Oil and Gas Industry Denounced as 'Beyond Comprehension'

"If Trump is reelected and this rule sticks, it is probably the single most consequential near-term climate decision of his presidency."

Flames from a flaring pit near a well in the Bakken Oil Field. The primary component of natural gas is methane, which is odorless when it comes directly out of the gas well. (Photo: Orjan F. Ellingvag/Corbis via Getty Images)

In a move one green group said shows the Trump EPA's approach is "manifestly inconsistent with the agency's legal obligations" and with science, the agency is under fire for preparations to roll back methane rules for U.S. oil and gas producers.

Before Friday, the New York Times reported, the EPA is expected to unveil two new rules regarding methane, a greenhouse gas with 80 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide in the first two decades after emission.

One would eliminate federal regulation of methane emissions from oil and gas wells across the country and would prevent future regulation at sites built before 2015, and another would weaken remaining requirements for companies, including one directing them to locate and fix leaks in wells. 

With the new rules in place, meteorologist and climate reporter Eric Holthaus said, voting Trump out of office in November will be imperative to protect communities across the country from methane emissions, which the EPA itself has said are linked to premature death, stroke, chronic bronchitis, and low birth weight as well as the warming of the planet.

"If Trump is reelected and this rule sticks, it is probably the single most consequential near-term climate decision of his presidency," wrote Holthaus on social media. "A U.S. oil and gas industry unconcerned with methane would produce a surge in global warming with essentially irreversible consequences."

Epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding denounced the expected rules as "sickening."

About 10% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are made up of methane, and according to the Environmental Defense Fund, the EPA's new rules could result in an additional five million metric tons of methane pollution to the atmosphere per year.

The expected rollback follows other significant EPA decisions to weaken environmental protections, including ones targeting the release of toxins from coal plants and tailpipe emissions.

"Our federal methane safeguards have been in place since 2016, protecting Americans from unhealthy and climate-damaging pollution. The Trump administration's decision to reverse course is deeply and fundamentally flawed," said Peter Zalzal, lead attorney for EDF, in a statement. "Eliminating these safeguards would ignore the overwhelming body of scientific evidence documenting the urgent need to reduce methane pollution."

With public support for coal extraction waning significantly, the fossil fuel industry has in recent years promoted natural gas as a "cleaner" alternative and is concerned that methane leaks from gas wells will "undermine that marketing message and hurt demand," the Times reported. 

Meanwhile, advocates for climate action are focused on promoting solar, wind, and other sustainable energy sources that don't involve fossil fuel extraction at all. 

Minneapolis-based meteorologist Sven Sundgaard called the planned rollback "yet another destructive and stupid act of this administration."

"Rather than trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to protect this planet for our children and grandchildren, this administration is now easing regulations on polluters," tweeted Sen. Angus King (I-Maine). "Let's call this what it is: environmental sabotage."

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