Trump Admin's New Rule Is Likely to Mean More Methane Releases in South Texas

A refinery flares gas from one of its stacks. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / W.CARTER
Wikimedia Commons / W.carter
A refinery flares gas from one of its stacks.
The Trump Administration on Thursday moved to gut federal methane regulations for fossil fuel companies, a change that could mean more of the potent greenhouse gas being burned off in South Texas oilfields.

Under the proposed rule change, the Environmental Protection Agency would eliminate Obama-era requirements that energy companies slash certain types of methane emissions. The administration claims the regulations stifle the innovation and progress of natural gas producers.

Because of its heat-trapping properties, methane has at least 30 times the global warming impact of carbon dioxide on a pound-per-pound basis, according to a recent Princeton University study.

Texas is the top energy producing state, and oil and gas companies frequently flare methane in natural gas and oil fields such as the Eagle Ford Shale which cuts across a wide swath of South Texas below San Antonio.

"Based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas reporting program, Texas emits nearly a third of the industry’s methane pollution, so it’s clear that this is a Texas-size problem," said Emma Pabst, a global warming solutions associate for the nonprofit Environment Texas.

"From the raging floodwaters of Hurricane Harvey to record-breaking heat waves in Central Texas, the climate crisis dictates that we get off oil and gas as quickly as possible," Papst added. "Our nation’s top scientists have warned that all these conditions are expected to get much worse unless we stop emitting greenhouse gases like methane."

The rule change is likely to spur lawsuits from states and environmental groups. Shortly after the EPA announcement, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced he's ready see the Trump administration in court.

"The EPA has made a monumentally stupid decision with this rule, and we have too much to lose to let it go,” he said in a statement supplied to the Los Angeles Times.

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