NYT: EPA to roll back Obama-era laws on methane leak inspections and repairs

Coal burning power plants create coal ash, one of the largest forms of industrial waste.

(CNN) — The Environmental Protection Agency is set to unveil a new proposal that relaxes requirements for how energy companies monitor and repair methane leaks, according to a new report.

The New York Times reported Monday that the EPA plans to roll back an Obama era-regulation as soon as this week that would make it easier for oil and gas companies to release methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that scientists say contributes to global warming.

The new proposal weakens a 2016 rule requiring energy companies to conduct leak inspections on their drilling equipment as regularly as every six months, according to the Times, which reviewed a draft of the proposal.

Under the EPA’s new proposal, companies would perform a leak inspection at least once a year, in most cases, and every two years for low-producing oil and gas wells, the Times reported.

Oil and gas drillers are currently required to fix methane leaks within 30 days, but the new rules give a company 60 days to fix leaks, according to the newspaper.

The EPA and the White House did not respond the Times’ multiple requests for comment. The EPA did not immediately return CNN’s request for comment.

According to the Times, other proposed changes include doubling the amount of time between inspections of equipment that traps and compresses the natural gas and allowing gas energy companies to follow state-level methane standards, as opposed to federal standards, if they operate in a state with different standards.

In August, the EPA announced its plan to devolve regulation of coal-fired power plants back to the states, which would boost the coal industry and increase carbon emissions nationwide. The agency also announced its proposal to freeze fuel-efficiency requirements for automakers and withdraw California’s waiver to set its own emissions standards.