Before Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the White House last month, the U.S. was on its way to adopting a regulation to control the emission of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from all new oil and gas operations.
Existing oil and gas operations would merely have been confronted with a set of voluntary guidelines.
This approach—adopting strict regulations for new polluters but exempting old—has been standard practice in the U.S. for decades, a practice that a leading expert on regulatory policy called “the standard mistake.”
“The standard mistake has been to come up with stringent new source standards and very permissive transition rules that allow existing actors to continue to operate without meeting those standards,” said Richard L. Revesz, a professor and dean emeritus at New York University School of Law and director of NYU’s Institute for Policy Integrity.
“We have not learned from our mistakes,” Revesz said in Chicago Thursday, “and always seem to be on the verge of repeating them.”
In the wake of Trudeau’s visit, the U.S. changed course. In a joint statement issued by the two nations March 10, Obama and Trudeau vowed to reduce methane emissions 40-45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025, and to do so by regulating, in no uncertain terms, existing oil and gas operations…