U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has swiftly complied with a request from GOP leaders in oil-and-gas-producing states to scrap an Obama-era request for industry information about reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The agency yesterday withdrew a formal survey of oil and gas companies that required them to provide information about onshore equipment and controls that could reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, including methane. Industry and state officials complained that the information collection request (ICR) was time-consuming and expensive.
“By taking this step, EPA is signaling 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.”
Eleven Republican state leaders, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, sent a letter Wednesday urging Pruitt to toss the information request (Energywire, March 2).
Industry groups were “overjoyed” at the news, calling the ICR an eleventh-hour attempt by the Obama administration to gather excessive data.
“We’re overjoyed,” Western Energy Alliance President Kathleen Sgamma said in an email. “The ICR was an ill-conceived action that was extremely burdensome not just on industry, but EPA career employees were struggling to figure out how to handle reams of meaningless data.”
The ICR was part of the previous administration’s plan to crack down on emissions from existing oil and gas facilities — a piece of President Obama’s broader Climate Action Plan. A separate EPA rule finalized last year aims to slash methane emissions from new facilities and is now under review in federal court.
The Independent Petroleum Association of America argued in a statement that the ICR “should have been a real opportunity for the decision-makers at EPA to better understand the complexities of the U.S. oil and natural gas industry” but that “ended up not being the case.”
“The exercise imposed significant costs on companies to produce additional paperwork and added unnecessary burdens on producers’ technical teams to prepare and submit rushed comments under enormous time constraints,” IPAA Executive Vice President Lee Fuller said in a statement. “IPAA welcomes today’s announcement as it brings meaningful relief to independent producers across the nation and demonstrates that creating American jobs and developing U.S. energy is a high priority for the Trump administration.”
The American Petroleum Institute hopes EPA’s move is part of a one-two punch, with the Senate also considering using the Congressional Review Act to torpedo Bureau of Land Management restrictions on methane emissions for oil and gas development on public and tribal lands.
Environmentalists, meanwhile, are worried that the oil and gas industry has Pruitt’s EPA in its pocket.
“This appalling decision shows how quickly Pruitt is turning the EPA into an oil industry vending machine,” Center for Biological Diversity attorney Vera Pardee said in a statement.
“Just one day after oil-friendly state governments complain about efforts to collect methane pollution data, out pops this cancellation,” she said. “The Trump administration doesn’t want this data because it doesn’t want to rein in oil companies’ massive emissions of this dangerous greenhouse gas.”
Mark Brownstein, vice president of climate and energy for the Environmental Defense Fund, said industry’s complaints about the ICR are “ironic,” considering operators’ contention last year that EPA needed more information before it could craft new emissions restrictions.
“The larger point here is that Administrator Pruitt is saying it’s OK for industry to withhold basic information on pollution from oil and gas operations from the American people,” he told E&E News.
A number of companies have already submitted responses to the information request. EDF is seeking those responses in a Freedom of Information Act request.
This story also appears in Energywire.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from E&E News. E&E provides daily coverage of essential energy and environmental news at www.eenews.net.