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US House panel moves to repeal Trump rollback of EPA methane rules

11 June 2021 Jim Day

Moving closer to the Biden administration's first major legislative win on climate and energy issues, a congressional committee voted along party lines 10 June to advance a resolution to repeal a Trump administration rule that gutted US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandates to limit venting and fugitive emissions of methane from the oil and natural gas industry.

Over the strident objections of Republicans, who said the committee vote represented more proof the administration is "waging a war on American energy," the US House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Committee voted 30-22 to approve the resolution under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to rescind 2020 methane rules issued under President Donald Trump.

The vote on the resolution has the effect of reinstating rules adopted by EPA under the Obama administration in 2016.

Methane—the primary component of natural gas—is about 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in holding heat in the atmosphere over a 20-year timeframe, which means cutting methane emissions can have a fairly quick and significant impact on slowing global warming.

The resolution now goes to the Democratic-controlled House for a vote scheduled for the week of 22 June. If passed as expected, the resolution would go to Biden.

Democrats said a rollback of the rule never should have taken place. "The methane rule rollback helped no one except a small group of the worst corporate polluters," Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Democrat-New Jersey, noted in a statement after the vote.

The US Senate in April passed companion legislation along mostly party lines, picking up just three GOP votes from Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

If signed into law, the CRA resolution specifically will restore Obama-era rules that require new oil and gas wells, pipelines, and processing facilities to reduce intentional flaring and venting, regularly inspect equipment for leaks, and fix within 30 days any leaks they discovered.

The CRA resolution's lead sponsor in the House, Representative Diana DeGette, Democrat-Colorado, said the resolution has the backing of ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Total, Occidental Petroleum, and leading gas producer EQT Energy, along with trade organizations, as well as environmental groups and the Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned electric utilities.

Much of the oil and gas industry has been touting its efforts to slash methane emissions voluntarily as a relatively straightforward and cost-effective way of reducing its carbon footprint through the EPA-coordinated Methane Challenge and the American Petroleum Institute-led Environmental Partnership. Many industry players see returning to across-the-board requirements under the Clean Air Act as putting all producers, pipelines, storage operators, and LNG producer-exporters on a level playing field.

The industry also is coming under increasing pressure from overseas customers to reduce carbon emissions from US-supplied oil and LNG as buyers seek to show progress on meeting corporate environmental goals and targets under the Paris Climate Treaty.

In another sign that such pressure is having an effect on US oil and gas marketers, leading LNG exporter Cheniere Energy and EQT—the nation's biggest gas producer—announced on 10 June they are working with several academic institutions and technology providers to expand monitoring, reporting, and verification protocols for measuring GHG emissions from their production units.

The companies have been working to develop "responsibly sourced gas" supplies that could command a premium price by demonstrating lower emissions of methane and other pollutants. "Collaboration with our natural gas suppliers is a key component of Cheniere's focus on measuring, reducing, and mitigating emissions," said Cheniere CEO Jack Fusco.

Original version published in "The Energy Daily," https://www.theenergydaily.com/ted/.

Posted 11 June 2021 by Jim Day, Senior Journalist, Energy

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