EPA’s New, Weakened Methane Rules Will Accelerate the Dangers of Climate Change

Statement by Julie McNamara, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Aug 13, 2020

WASHINGTON (August 13, 2020)—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized weakened rules regulating methane emissions from new and modified oil and gas extraction operations. The rollbacks threaten to increase the already-dangerous levels of methane in the atmosphere, but even worse, they jeopardize future efforts to control methane and protect the climate and public health, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by Julie McNamara, senior analyst in the Climate and Energy Program at UCS.

“Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that can accelerate climate change, and today, methane levels in the atmosphere are the highest on record. We should be doing everything we can to drive down methane emissions—but instead, the administration is weakening standards and enforcement, putting us all at risk. It’s a deliberate decision to let the fossil fuel industry pollute with impunity, pocketing short-term profits while leaving communities to deal with the damage for decades to come.

“Indeed, the administration’s approach isn’t a simple matter of weakening one tool—it’s an astonishing assortment of favors straight off the polluter wish-list to permanently undermine methane rules, including directly questioning whether the agency has the authority to do anything to control methane emissions at all.

“These rollbacks distort and defy basic principles of science, economics, and policy design—an embarrassing admission that there’s no real defense for the administration’s demolition of meaningful methane rules.

“Companies extracting fossil fuels should be held accountable for controlling the harmful pollution they leak into our atmosphere, but the administration thinks this basic competency is too much to ask. The idea that the oil and gas industry will control these emissions on their own, without strong standards and enforcement, doesn’t pass the laugh test. Even ExxonMobil admits that a voluntary framework won’t actually solve the problem of methane leaks. EPA’s political leaders are using the pretense of voluntary self-regulation to evade their own responsibility to protect public health and the climate.

“If oil and gas company leaders want to get credit for thinking ahead, to a clean and sustainable future, they’ll return this gift unopened, end trade-group lobbying for weak rules, and support methane standards that actually match the urgency of the climate crisis.”

For more on these new rules and the threat they pose to the climate, see McNamara’s latest post on the UCS blog.