ExxxonMobil cannot have it both ways when it comes to Trump’s efforts to weaken federal methane pollution rules.
On one hand, the world’s third largest publicly traded oil company has expressed support, albeit in a low-profile manner, for current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules to cut methane from oil and gas production. But, on the other hand, they have also endorsed the position of their trade association, the American Petroleum Institute (API), that is leading the charge to weaken and repeal the same rules Exxon claims to support. Perhaps not coincidentally, the CEO of ExxonMobil, Darren Woods, is also chair of API’s Board of Directors.
The oil and gas industry has a long history of failing to walk its talk, however. In order for its support for EPA methane rules to register, it must publicly declare to the Trump administration–publicly and directly–to stop its attacks on federal methane rules.
This is not a big ask. Through its subsidiary XTO and its promises as a member of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, ExxonMobil has already committed to more ambitious climate action than the current rules — that the Trump Administration plans to eliminate — require. Shell, which has made similar commitments, announced this week that they have directly urged the Trump White House to strengthen methane rules for new and existing sources.
The time is right for Exxon to act. Executives from every major oil and gas company, global leaders, and members of the Trump administration are meeting in Houston for CERA Week, one of the world’s largest industry conferences. Press is gathered and news is in the making.
Unfortunately, Exxon has already missed EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who spoke to the conference on Monday. Wheeler failed to mention climate change, and he talked about rolling back methane rules as if ExxonMobil and others had never made clear climate promises that would necessitate the rule. This is evidence enough that Exxon needs to do more to tell Trump and Wheeler to halt these attacks.
Perhaps that’s what sparked Shell to speak out.
ExxonMobil will have to speak out just as clearly as Shell did because their relationship with API and its role as Board Chair continue to dog Exxon’s methane commitment credibility. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is gearing up for a second round of attacks on federal methane pollution rules. API still stands by its claim that direct regulation of methane is “unlawful.” Exxon can’t have it both ways here.
ExxonMobil must also walk its talk when it comes to its own facilities. Earthworks own field monitoring shows that Exxon subsidiary XTO’s facilities are still emitting methane and toxic air pollution even as it promises to cut its methane pollution.
If Exxon throws its political weight behind EPA regulation of methane pollution, it could be determinative. With Shell and ExxonMobil both urging the Trump Administration to regulate (and strengthen regulation of) methane pollution, they could pull along other companies.
But until Exxon directly addresses the Trump administration, its support for federal regulation of methane from new and existing oil and gas operations should come with an asterisk and footnote that point to discrepancies between what Exxon says in public and what their paid lobby association says behind closed doors. And any congratulations should be suspended until Exxon does what Shell has already done and publicly call on the Trump administration to not rollback these important and urgently necessary methane pollution rules.