The EPA has begun the process of overturning an Obama-era rule on the emission of methane at oil and gas operations, reports the Wall Street Journal. The move is in line with the Trump administration's anti-regulatory philosophy, but environmentalists are incensed because methane is seen as a major contributor to climate change. The rollback, expected to take effect next year after a period of review and comment, comes with this wrinkle: Major companies including Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell oppose the plan because they think it could hurt the reputation of natural gas as being a cleaner fuel. However, the American Petroleum Institute, a major player in the industry, backs the proposal. The API and the EPA maintain that the regulation is unnecessary because companies have an incentive to trap methane voluntarily—they can sell it.
While carbon dioxide is the most significant greenhouse gas, the New York Times explains that methane is a "close second" because it is far more potent in trapping heat. Methane accounts for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in the US, and much of that is from the oil and gas industry. "This reckless rollback highlights the Trump administration’s complete contempt for our climate," says Kassie Siegel of the Climate Law Institute at the Center for Biological Diversity, per the Washington Post. "The EPA is now so determined to actually increase greenhouse pollution." But "I don’t see that there's going to be some big climate concern here," an EPA official tells the Journal. The issue, she says, is that the regulation never should have been enacted in the first place. (Read more methane stories.)