The Environmental Protection Agency has removed an Obama-era rule that requires oil and gas companies to report methane emissions from oilfields - a rule that had prompted complaints from 11 oil and gas-producing states that argued it required too much work.
That information was being collected as part of a long-term project to regulate methane emissions from oil and gas production, an initiative that grew out of an agreement between Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The EPA is now under the leadership of Scott Pruitt, a former state attorney general for Oklahoma, who has questioned the scientific consensus that human activities are contributing to global warming and joined lawsuits against the agency's emission curbs.
Some oil companies are already teaming up with tech developers to better manage the methane emissions at their fields.
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Oil and gas drillers are no longer required to respond to an earlier EPA request for information about equipment and emissions at existing oil wells.
"By taking this step, EPA is signaling that we take these concerns seriously and are committed to strengthening our partnership with the states", Pruitt said in a statement.
"Today's action will reduce burdens on businesses while we take a closer look at the need for additional information from this industry".
Citing a new EPA program, along with several university studies on the issue, McCarthy said methane emissions "are substantially higher than we previously understood".
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Environmentalists, meanwhile, are anxious that the oil and gas industry has Pruitt's EPA in its pocket.
The EPA pegged the industry-wide cost of responding to the survey, which probed almost 20,000 owners and operators in the oil and gas sector, at $42 million-or, depending on the type of survey, between $1,200 and $5,160 per company.
"The larger point here is that Administrator Pruitt is saying it's OK for industry to withhold basic information on pollution from oil and gas operations from the American people", he told E&E News. The information request was finalized in November, sparking pushback from the industry.
This story also appears in Energywire.
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