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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Trump pushing more deregulation than an industry even asks for

For nearly three years, officials in Washington have

For nearly three years, officials in Washington have alarmed climate experts by paring back federal environmental goals and rules on burning fuel. Credit: AP/Damian Dovarganes

Economists call it "regulatory capture" when a public agency is used to promote the private agenda of those it is assigned to oversee.

For the Trump administration, a new phrase may be in order, still to be coined, that describes a deregulation mission deeper than industry even wants.

Regulatory surrender, maybe?

For nearly three years, officials in Washington D.C. have alarmed climate experts by paring back federal environmental goals and rules on burning fuel.

Now even parts of the energy industry are quite cool to some of the rollbacks proposed.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. The latest move would remove requirements that oil and gas control methane leaks from new facilities.

The way the law and bureaucracy work, this may be a first step toward curbing future regulation of emissions from existing oil and gas facilities, which environmentalists see as the bigger pollution problem.

On one level, this is a clash of interests between large and small companies. 

The Washington Post quoted Shell U.S. president Gretchen Watkins reiterating the company’s support for national limits on methane. She said Shell has pledged to reduce its methane leaks from its global operations to less than 0.2 percent by 2025.

Months ago, BP said in a published piece that voluntary actions by a few firms “are not enough to solve the problem.”

The industry these days is trying to sell natural gas as an environmentally safe alternative, and some see the Trump rollback as undercutting that.

But many smaller operators may be less welcoming toward methane regulation, according to Bloomberg News.

Forcing owners of millions of wells to find and fix leaks would be “a huge cost burden,” said Lee Fuller of the Independent Petroleum Association of America. “It would shut down production at a lot of these wells.”

Mixed reviews of Trump deregulation have also come from the auto industry.

Last month Ford, Volkswagen, Honda, and BMW reached a deal with California to reduce new-vehicle emissions through 2026. The California rules match Obama administration standards that Trump & Co. have been working to undo.

Trump himself didn't take it well, practically accusing them of malfeasance in a bizarre rant for not going to war against tighter public ecology standards.

"Henry Ford would be very disappointed if he saw his modern-day descendants wanting to build a much more expensive car, that is far less safe and doesn't work as well, because execs don't want to fight California regulators," he complained.

"Car companies should know that when this Administration's alternative is no longer available, California will squeeze them to a point of business ruin."

Trump called global warming a Chinese hoax before he was elected. Since then he's made no such claim. Nor has he discussed how he views the whole matter after withdrawing the United States from the Paris Climate Accord.

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