EPA scraps rule requiring oilwell operators to provide information on methane emissions

The Environmental Protection Agency has said it planned to scrap a rule that required operators of existing oil and gas wells to provide the agency extensive information about their equipment and methane emissions. The development is seen as a step in dismantling a last-ditch Obama administration climate change initiative.

The EPA announcement was aimed at undoing an Obama administration initiative launched only two days after Donald Trump's election – to gather information about methane, a short-lived but extremely powerful climate pollutant, responsible for about a quarter of global warming to date.

The action comes after the agency received a letter sent by the attorneys general of several conservative and oil-producing states complaining that the information request ''furthers the previous administration's climate agenda and supports the imposition of burdensome climate rules on existing sites, the cost and expense of which will be enormous.''

According to Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator the agency took those complaints seriously. ''Today's action will reduce burdens on businesses while we take a closer look at the need for additional information from this industry,'' he said in a statement.

But environmental advocates viewed the move from an entirely different perspective.

''With this action, Administrator Pruitt is effectively telling oil and gas companies to go ahead and withhold vital pollution data from the American public,'' Mark Brownstein, vice president climate and energy at the Environmental Defense Fund, said in an interview.

According to commentators, the move underscored the former Oklahoma attorney general's deep, friendly ties to an industry he was expected to police.

''By taking this step, EPA is signalling 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.''