Trump's EPA dumps methane emissions rule for oil, gas fields

FILE - In this March 12, 2020, file photo, the sun shines through clouds above a shale gas drilling site in St. Mary's, Pa. President Donald Trump's administration is expected to undo Obama-era rules designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas fields and pipelines, formalizing the changes in the heart of the nation's most prolific natural gas reservoir and in the premier presidential battleground state of Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)
FILE - In this March 12, 2020, file photo, the sun shines through clouds above a shale gas drilling site in St. Mary's, Pa. President Donald Trump's administration is expected to undo Obama-era rules designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas fields and pipelines, formalizing the changes in the heart of the nation's most prolific natural gas reservoir and in the premier presidential battleground state of Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

HARRISBURG, Pa. – President Donald Trump's administration is undoing Obama-era rules designed to limit potent greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas fields and pipelines, formalizing the changes Thursday in the heart of the nation's most prolific natural gas reservoir and in the premier presidential battleground state of Pennsylvania.

Andrew Wheeler, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, signed the rollback of the 2016 methane emissions rule in Pittsburgh as the agency touted the Trump administration's efforts to "strengthen and promote American energy.”

The EPA first proposed the rollback last year, accusing the Obama administration of enacting a legally flawed rule, and agency officials said it would save companies tens of millions of dollars a year in compliance requirements without changing the trajectory of methane emissions.

But states, including California, and a coalition of environmental advocacy groups warned that the changes are illegal — not to mention a setback in the fight against climate change — and expect to quickly sue to block it.

“It’s not only negligent, it’s unlawful," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “We won’t sit silently while the EPA allows this super pollutant to rapidly warm our atmosphere."

The White House took the event to Pittsburgh, the headquarters for many companies exploring the Marcellus Shale, the booming reservoir that vaulted Pennsylvania to the nation's No. 2 natural gas state, behind Texas.

“EPA has been working hard to fulfill President Trump’s promise to cut burdensome and ineffective regulations for our domestic energy industry,” Wheeler said in a statement.

Reflecting the pervasive politics of the presidential campaign, Wheeler cast blame onto the presumptive Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, saying “regulatory burdens put into place by the Obama-Biden Administration fell heavily on small and medium-sized energy businesses."