The Trump administration on Thursday is expected to announce rollback regulations on methane emissions in oil fields — the latest push by the administration to undo Obama-era environmental regulations.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s plan would ease requirements on oil and gas sites to monitor for methane leaks and plug them, The Associated Press reported, citing industry and environmental groups.
The oil and gas industry is the nation’s primary source of methane emissions, accounting for nearly one-third in 2016.
Environmental advocates said they expect the plan to go further than previous proposals, and aim to exempt companies from requirements to detect and stop leaks at oil and gas sites.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the plan would also stop legal requirements that force the EPA to set rules on emissions from pre-existing well and industry sites.
“The purpose of this rule is to get to the fundamental basis of whether [methane] should have been regulated in the first place,” Anne Idsal, the acting assistant administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Air and Radiation, told the Journal. “It’s not about whether we’re doing the maximum we can or should do to deal with” climate change.
The proposal begins a 60-day public comment period and then an administration review. The Journal reports that the administration aims to finalize the rules in 2020.
Methane is a component of natural gas that is often wasted through releases during drilling operations, and is considered by scientists as a more powerful contributor to climate change than carbon dioxide, although there is less of it.
It is the latest in a series of aggressive moves by the administration to roll back regulations imposed by the administration of former President Obama.
The EPA in June finalized plans for replacing Obama-era regulations on emissions from coal-fired power plants. Administrator Andrew Wheeler also signed the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, which gives individual states wide discretion to decide whether to require limited efficiency upgrades at individual coal-fired power plants.
That rule, once fully implemented, allows states to select their own energy plans. States will be given three years to submit the plan and the EPA will have 12 months to approve it. Wheeler called it a sign that “fossil fuels will continue to be an important part of the mix” in the U.S. energy supply.
President Trump has long been skeptical about the effect emissions and other activities have on climate change. Last year he also pulled the U.S. out of the international Paris climate accord, which the U.S. entered into under President Obama.
Fox News’ Alex Pappas and The Associated Press contributed to this report.