The EPA has, effective yesterday (March 2), ended the requirement for oil and natural gas companies to provide the public information regarding methane emissions on its operation sites.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who was sworn in two weeks ago on February 17, said he wants to assess the need for this information, according to the online announcement. The agency has been collecting this information since last May to help it figure out how to further reduce methane emissions from these sources.
“By taking this step, EPA is signaling that we take these concerns seriously and are committed to strengthening our partnership with the states,” said Pruitt in a press release. “Today’s action will reduce burdens on businesses while we take a closer look at the need for additional information from this industry.”
Methane is a greenhouse gas emitted during the oil and natural gas drilling and refining processes. While not discussed as widely as carbon dioxide, methane traps heat much better than its more popular counterpart. As the EPA noted when creating the information request in May, methane has a global warming potential 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide’s.
Without tracking this information, environmental regulators won’t have an accurate idea of how much methane fossil fuel companies are emitting into the atmosphere, which is thought to be much higher than previously thought. It was this realization which led the agency to begin demanding the information.
Much of this drilling is happening near communities of color like those in California’s Central Valley or North Dakota’s Fort Berthold Reservation. Not only do such operating sites emit greenhouse gases like carbon and methane. They also emit chemicals like mercury and sulfur harmful to human health.