The Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to rollback Obama-era emissions standards have come as welcome relief to Louisiana’s industrial sector, which is a major driver of the state’s economy and has bemoaned the previous administration’s stringent rules.
But local environmentalists worry that reversing regulations intended to combat climate change will impact the wellbeing of the state’s fragile coastline as well as its residents.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday a proposal to ease regulations on releasing methane into the atmosphere for energy companies, which argue the Obama-era requirements were overly burdensome and costly. The EPA says the changes will save $75 million a year in regulatory costs between 2019 and 2025, while increasing methane emissions, Reuters reports.
The administration’s proposal is just the latest attempt at dismantling Obama-era regulations. In recent months, the Trump administration has also proposed rolling back tough fuel efficiency standards for vehicles and replacing a policy to limit emissions from power plants with one that allows states to write their own standards, according to Reuters.
The regulation rollback is “good for Louisiana,” says Louisiana Association of Business and Industry President and CEO Stephen Waguespack, adding it gives the state the flexibility to set emissions standards that are more in line with its massive industrial operations, including its growing LNG sector in Lake Charles, which is crucial to the state economy.
“The administration’s approach is to set clear targets but not be overly prescriptive about how to get there,” Waguespack says. “States can decide what works best for them. It’s a much smarter approach.”
He adds that Obama’s environmental policies were a targeted attempt to do away with certain fuel sources, like coal, and move toward wind and solar energy. Waguespack says Trump correctly argues that this is the wrong approach.
Environmental groups, however, say the Obama-era regulations aim to combat climate change. The Louisiana Environmental Action Network has concerns about how the reversal of such policies will impact an industrial-heavy state like Louisiana.
“When you talk about lessening regulation, in Louisiana that can mean real and significant impacts on safety and quality of life for residents who live alongside this infrastructure,” says LEAN spokesman Michael Orr in a statement.
The rollback also “directly undermines” the work Louisiana communities are doing to survive environmental challenges, he adds, including the dramatic land loss the state is experiencing as sea levels rise.
“South Louisiana is racing towards catastrophe and providing the fuel,” Orr says. “With one of the nation’s largest industrial corridors along the Mississippi River, Louisiana is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions and a major contributor to climate change, as well as the state most vulnerable to its impacts.”