WASHINGTON, Oct 4 (Reuters) - The U.S. Interior Department will propose this week delaying parts of an Obama-era rule to limit methane emissions from oil and gas production on federal lands, a rule Congress upheld earlier in the year, a document showed on Wednesday.
Under the rule, finalized by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) two months before former president Barack Obama left office, oil and gas operators on public lands must prevent the leaking, venting and flaring of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
The administration of President Donald Trump has sought to do away with the rule, viewing it as excessive environmental regulation. BLM has proposed delaying the rule's implementation until Jan. 17, 2019 as it reviews Obama's regulation, according to the document, scheduled to be published on Thursday in the Federal Register. The document can be seen here: bit.ly/2xZ5BPc
Delays in the methane rule could benefit energy drillers on public lands as the Trump administration seeks to make the country “energy dominant” by maximizing oil and gas output for domestic consumption and for shipping energy products to allies.
Energy companies have said the rule could cost them tens of thousands of dollars per well and hinder production. The American Petroleum Institute has said the rule is unnecessary because energy producers have made strides in reducing emissions of methane, the main component of natural gas.
Drillers on federal lands produced 9 percent of the natural gas and 5 percent of the oil in the United States last fiscal year.
In May, the U.S. Senate rejected a resolution to revoke the rule, as several of Trump’s fellow Republicans, including Senator John McCain, voted against the measure.
Environmentalists said the delay was a gift by the administration to the petroleum industry.
Kate Kelly, public lands director at the liberal Center for American Progress, said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the Trump administration “need to realize that they are not above the law and that it is American taxpayers, not the oil and gas industry, that pay their salaries.”
The Interior Department, which will take public comments on the proposed delay once it is published in the Federal Register, did not immediately respond to questions about the document. (Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by David Gregorio)