EPA Withdraws Request for Methane Data

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As his first move as administrator of the EPA, Scott Pruitt has ended an Obama-era request for oil and gas companies to provide the agency with information on greenhouse gas emissions.

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.

Officials from 11 states on Wednesday asked the EPA to suspend its information collection request, saying a methane rule would be costly and "unlawful".

"The burden of the request is disproportionate to its benefit, " the letter reads, citing an estimate from the EPA that put the cost of completing and responding to the survey at $1,100 to $5,800 for each company.

Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, gets released during the extraction process for oil and natural gas. According to reuters, the administration is targeting pollution and climate change programs.

Yesterday the EPA withdrew its request in response to a March 1 letter from nine state attorneys general and the governors of MS and Kentucky.

"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.

The decision, one of Pruitt's first since the Senate narrowly confirmed his nomination last month, underscores the former Oklahoma attorney general's deep, friendly ties to an industry he's now tasked with policing. The shift from coal- to gas-burning power plants has helped to limit the carbon footprint of the utility sector, by far the biggest emitter in the country, but not by much.

The oil industry and its supporters had opposed the request, as well as any EPA effort to crack down on methane, arguing drillers are reducing emissions through state rules and self-regulation.

"The notion that EPA won't be collecting and monitoring data is cause for concern", Cullenward said.