In May,the Environmental Protect Agency issued a new rule requiring oil and gas companies to report what equipment they use and how much methane a greenhouse gas 40 times more potent than carbon dioxide their drilling sites emit.
The decision, one of Pruitts first since the Senate narrowly confirmed his nomination last month, underscores the former Oklahoma attorney generals deep, friendly ties to an industry hes now tasked with policing.The move comes days after The Huffington Post reported on the White Houses proposal to slash a quarter of the EPAs budget and pink-slip 1 in 5 agency employees.
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. Todays action will reduce burdens on businesses while we take a closer look at the need for additional information from this industry.
Pruitts relationship with oil and gas players became a flashpoint after President Donald Trump nominated him to lead an agency he sued 13 times as the Sooner States top cop.
Pruitt repeatedly joined oil, gas and coal players including Oklahoma Gas & Electric and the Domestic Energy Producers Alliance, an industry-backed group in filing lawsuits to stop federal regulations. In 2011, Pruitt allowed Devon Energy Corporation, the Oklahoma City-based natural gas giant, to write a three-page complaint to the EPA under his letterhead, which he later signed.
Last week, the Oklahoma attorney generals office released emails under court order thatshed new light on how chummy relations between Pruitt and the oil and gas industry became during his six years as the states attorney general.
The office sued to block the release of more emails that were scheduled to be disclosed this month, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday granted a stay, giving the new attorney generals office more time to produce the correspondence.
The first batch of7,564 documentsreleased last week renewed concerns that Pruitt would use his new post to benefit his industry allies, who have donated more than $300,000 to his campaigns between 2002 and 2016. Even more money went to a political action committee and a super pac”}}’>political action committee and super PAC that paid for Pruitts trips to Hawaii and New Orleans.
The now-infamous 2011 Devon Energy letter, published in 2014 by The New York Times, specifically criticized EPA estimates on methane emissions from drilling rigs as inaccurate or too high in hopes of preventing further regulation. Two spokesmen for Devon Energy did not immediately return calls and emails requesting comment on Thursday evening.
Natural gas emits less carbon than other fossil fuels, such as oil or coal, and utility companies areincreasingly relyingon it to produce electricity as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, technology has made it much cheaper. 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.
But the fracking industry is relatively new, and its effects on the environment are still being studied. Oklahoma is now dogged by man-made earthquakescaused by fracking, which involves cracking bedrock with highly-pressurized, sand- and chemical-laced water to unleash gas trapped below.
Methane leaks, which can cause dizziness and headaches, remain what The Economist called the industrys dirty little secret. Earlier this week, an underwater pipeline in Alaska began leaking natural gas into the scenic Cook Inlet.A massive leak last year in a suburb of Los Angeles, dubbed an invisible tsunami, became the biggest natural disaster since the BPs Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.
We must reject as a nation the false paradigm that if youre pro-energy, youre anti-environment or if youre pro-environment, youre anti-energy, Pruitt said during his Senate confirmation hearing last month. I reject that.
Yet so far, Pruitts time at the helm of the EPA has been marked by plans to eviscerate the agencys budget, halt climate change action and ease restraints on corporate polluters.During his first speech to agency staff last week, Pruitt mentioned a toxic environment only once to refer to the political rhetoric of his critics.
He did not mention pollution, climate change or environmental destruction at all.