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SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: August 13, 2020

SNIP: The Trump administration is revoking rules that require oil and gas drillers to detect and fix leaks of methane, a greenhouse gas that heats the planet far faster than carbon dioxide.

Methane has a much more potent short-term warming effect than CO2 and addressing it is critical to slowing global heating as the world is already on track to become more than 3C hotter than before industrialization.

The Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Andrew Wheeler, will announce the rollback from Pennsylvania, which has major oil and gas operations and is also a politically important swing state. The rule change is part of what Trump calls his “energy dominance” agenda.

The Trump administration’s changes apply to new wells and those drilled since 2016, when President Barack Obama enacted the regulation in an effort to help stall climate change during a boom in fracking – a method of extracting fossil gas by injecting water and chemicals underground. The regulations required companies to regularly check for methane leaks from valves, pipelines and tanks.

Large oil companies have argued for keeping the rules, saying they are needed so the industry can limit its climate footprint as it markets gas as a smart alternative to coal – which emits far more carbon dioxide.

Roughly a quarter of global warming the planet has experienced in recent decades has been due to methane, said Robert Howarth, a researcher who studies methane at Cornell University. The oil and gas industry is the biggest source of the pollutant.

US methane emissions have become more concerning as scientists have begun to better understand their prevalence and impacts, and as gas production has continued to grow rapidly, increasing 10% last year.

Average global temperatures are already more than 1C higher. And they are expected to be 1.5C to 2C higher within the next 10 to 25 years, Howarth said. Reductions in carbon have a delayed effect on temperatures. But reductions in methane have a more immediate impact.

Some experts have warned that gas could be an even bigger contributor to climate change than coal, depending on how much of its methane is leaked into the atmosphere.

The methane rollbacks are part of a broad deregulatory campaign by the Trump administration, which has weakened environment and climate standards.