Brief #41—Environment

Policy Summary
Rollbacks appear to be the defining characteristic of the Trump administration, particularly with relation to environmental oversight. Last week, the Department of the Interior in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management decided to ease restrictions on leaking, venting and flaring methane from fossil fuel drilling on public lands, ostensibly saving the fossil fuel industry approximately $1.01 billion over the next 10 years. By contrast, the Obama era regulations, which have since been nixed, would have reduced methane emissions by 35%. The new policy put forth by the Department of the Interior revokes mandates for companies to reduce gas pollution.  Energy companies have alleged that the Obama-era regulations were, “too intrusive.” “We’re for clean air and water, but at the same time, we’re for reasonable regulations,” the Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told reporters shortly after the decision was passed. The decision also comes at the heels of another methane-related restriction put forward by the EPA, that would cut leak inspections to once per year for most wells, and twice per year for less potent ones.

Methane contributes more to climate change than even Carbon Dioxide by even 100-fold. Immediately after the decision was made public, California and New Mexico both sued the Trump administration, claiming that they did not properly justify their reasons for the repeal. Such bureaucratic advocacy is much needed, as climate scientists are terrified by the implications of the new regulation, explaining that, “reducing methane emissions is an exceptionally cost effective way to slow climate change.”  In a surprise move, a coalition of big oil companies, such as ExxonMobil and Chevron have responded to Trump’s move to roll back emissions by pledging efforts to reduce methane emissions 20% by 2025. However, many fear that this may be far too little too late. Within the last few days, methane lakes in Alaska have been bubbling to the surface with permafrost, and researchers worry that this demonstrates geologic thawing of previously-unidentified fossil fuels.

Engagement Resources

  • CREDO Action: Activist organization that creates advocacy opportunities for progressive issues.

This Brief was developed by USRESIST NEWS Analyst Zoe Stricker. Contact:

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