WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is expected in the coming days to lift Obama-era controls on the release of methane, a powerful climate-warming gas that is emitted from leaks and flares in oil and gas wells.
The new rule on methane pollution, issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, has been expected for months, and will be made public before Friday, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke anonymously to avoid publicly pre-empting the official announcement.
The rollback of the methane rule is the latest move in the Trump administration’s ongoing effort to weaken environmental standards, which has continued unabated during the coronavirus pandemic.
In April, the E.P.A. weakened rules on the release of toxic chemicals from coal-fired power plants, loosened curbs on climate-warming tailpipe pollution and opted not to strengthen a regulation on industrial soot emissions that have been linked to respiratory diseases, including Covid-19.
In July, President Trump unilaterally weakened one of the nation’s bedrock conservation laws, the National Environmental Policy Act, limiting public review of federal infrastructure projects in an effort to speed up the permitting process for freeways, power plants and pipelines.
However, this and any other regulatory changes put forth by the Trump administration in the latter half of 2020 could be quickly undone in the first half of 2021, if, as polls now suggest, Joseph R. Biden Jr. wins the White House and Democrats take control of the Senate. That’s because of a Senate procedure known as the Congressional Review Act, which gives lawmakers 60 legislative days to overturn major new regulations issued by federal agencies. In the early days of the Trump administration, Republicans used the procedure to undo 14 Obama-era rules.