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Plugging away

Reuters/Andrew Cullen

The Department of Interior finalized a new rule to limit methane leakage on federal and Native American land.

And it’s just in the nick of time, since President-elect Trump has promised to repeal all of President Obama’s climate regulations.

This rule, which will be gradually phased in, requires drilling operators to halve the natural gas that is flared off from new and existing wells, limit venting from storage tanks, inspect for leaks, and so on. DOI projects that the rule should cut methane emissions up to 35 percent.

Methane is an extremely powerful heat-trapping gas. With the increase in natural gas and oil drilling that is the fracking boom, methane leakage from wells and pipelines has also skyrocketed. A crackdown on these leaks was part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

The new rule doesn’t govern private land, where most drilling takes place. The Environmental Protection Agency developed rules limiting methane leakage from new wells on private land. Hillary Clinton proposed to follow up on that with a rule for existing wells on private land.

Trump will not do that. But, now that the public lands rule is finalized, undoing it would require a new rule-making process, subject to legal challenge.