On Tuesday, President Trump signed an executive order commanding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to weaken a range of important public heath protections, including steps to revoke the Clean Power Plan, America’s first-ever standards to reduce dangerous carbon pollution from large power plants.
Fred Krupp, President of Environmental Defense Fund, said: “Yesterday’s order also commands a review of the protections against methane pollution. By taking that step, the Administration is undercutting common-sense remedies to a serious problem. As much as 10 million metric tons of America’s natural gas are wasted each year through leaks, venting, and flaring of methane pollution – enough natural gas to fuel the needs of every home in Pennsylvania or Ohio for an entire year. Along with this waste of resources and taxpayer revenue comes toxic, smog-forming, air pollution that threatens the health of hundreds of thousands of Americans living near oil and gas wells, compressors, and other gathering, production, and transportation sites. By asking the agencies to dismantle these basic public health safeguards, the Administration is ensuring that the natural gas industry will not be able live up to its reputation for providing a cleaner fuel.
“The executive order also seeks to end the use of an important measure of the economic harm caused by the impacts of climate change. This measure, known as the social cost of carbon, was developed through a transparent and rigorous interagency process and based on the latest peer-reviewed science and economics. The social cost of carbon is essential to ensuring sound, consistent analysis of climate policy based on public health impacts. Rolling back its use across the federal government will not only lead to regulatory confusion, but help conceal the costs of carbon pollution, skewing analysis and biasing policy against common-sense solutions that protect property and public health,” Krupp added.
This executive order points the United States backward to an era of more pollution and more disease, and it is a future that Mexico can decidedly take a different approach on concerning methane. Historic changes in Mexico’s energy sector opened up the Mexican oil and gas industry, already the world’s fifth largest emitter, to private investment for the first time since it was nationalized in 1938. It is squarely in Mexico’s interest to ensure that all oil and gas companies operating within its borders meet the same environmental standards as elsewhere in the northern continent. Otherwise, companies operating in other regions are able to exploit differences in national and subnational safeguards that could hurt Mexico’s economy and its citizens.
The States of Ohio and California recently approved new policies to regulate oil and gas industry methane pollution, making it clear that substantive U.S. action will continue despite the latest order by President Trump. Canada is also set to propose its federal methane regulations this spring. Last June, Mexico pledged to reduce it methane emissions by 40-45% by 2025. Mexico has taken initial steps toward its goal but further action is needed to develop strong, comprehensive regulations that can fully deliver on the country’s methane commitment.