WASHINGTON, May 31 (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday halted methane emission standards for oil and gas companies in its latest move to unwind Obama administration climate change rules, amid reports that the United States will withdraw from a global climate change agreement.
The agency issued a 90-day stay of the 2016 New Source Performance Standards for the oil and gas industry, which require companies to capture fugitive emissions, obtain engineer certifications and install leak detention devices while it reconsiders the rule.
The rule, completed last year under former President Barack Obama, was due to go into effect on June 3.
The EPA said it expects to prepare a proposed rule and launch a public comment period after the stay.
Environmental groups vowed on Wednesday to block the EPA move in court.
"The Trump administration is giving its friends in the oil and gas industry a free pass to continue polluting our air," said David Doniger, director of the climate and clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "We will fight Trumps latest polluter giveaway in court.
The Environmental Defense Fund also said it would sue the EPA to block a rollback of the rule.
Methane is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide. Though it only lasts in the atmosphere for 20 years, methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide when it comes to trapping heat. (Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)