By Tom Krisher
The polarizing politics of climate change have forced companies to choose between supporting the Trump administration’s deregulation policies that could boost profits or opposing them to win over environmentally conscious consumers.
That dynamic played out again Thursday when President Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency sought to revoke regulations on methane gas emissions from oil facilities. British Petroleum, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell voiced opposition to the plan but smaller oil and gas companies welcomed the possibility.
Before that, it was the auto industry grappling with a proposal to loosen fuel economy requirements. And this summer, it was electric utilities dealing with lower pollution standards for coal-fired power plants.
For big corporations especially, there are other reasons to support regulation. Sometimes the cost of compliance can stop smaller competitors from entering a market, said Mark Templeton, a law professor at the University of Chicago who specializes in environmental and energy law. For instance, larger oil companies may already have invested in equipment to capture methane gas and comply with regulations enacted by the Obama administration, he said.
“The little guy hasn’t made the investment,” Templeton said. Bigger companies may want to “stick it to the Ma and Pa operators and make the industry less competitive.”