EPA Proposes to Eliminate Oil and Gas Methane Rules: Just Another Brick in the Deregulatory Wall

Foley Hoag LLP - Environmental Law
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Foley Hoag LLP - Environmental Law

Last week, EPA proposed to eliminate regulation of methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.  The most noteworthy response to the proposal came from the large producers.  ExxonMobil, Shell, and BP all oppose the rollback.  In fact, Shell went on record not that long ago requesting the EPA increase the stringency of oil and gas methane regulation.  Anyone else hear an echo of the large automakers’ response to the Administration’s efforts to relax fuel efficiency standards?

I detect two related elements at work.  First, as I have frequently noted, it’s not obvious that Trump cares at all about the substance of policy.  He cares only about being able to trumpet further efforts to delegitimize government.  The soundbites for his supporters are all that matter here.

The related point is that, to the extent that any of his supporters care about the substance of the deregulatory effort, there is a clear split on this issue between the major oil companies and the smaller operations.  In a statement supporting the rule changes, the American Petroleum Institute noted the “disproportionate effect on small businesses” of the existing rules.  This too feeds into the Administration’s narrative that big business and big government have conspired to screw the little guy.  You have to love this statement from Anne Idsal, acting AA for Air and Radiation:

We don’t preclude anybody from going above and beyond if they think that’s the thing they need to do from a business and a compliance standpoint.

Very similar, don’t you think, to the Trump response when folks such as Gates and Buffett argue for higher taxes?

My only other note is that the administration is arguing in part that methane regulation isn’t necessary, because continued regulation of VOC emissions will mean that methane emissions are also effectively controlled.  I realize that the logic is different here, but does anyone else see an irony in EPA relying on a co-benefits argument to defend methane deregulation?  I’m only sorry I used “sauce for the goose” in another recent post.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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