After a lot of discussion, the Environmental Protection Agency has finalized the standards for methane emissions from the oil and gas industry — a necessary move, says the agency and its proponents, given that methane from those sources goes up each year by 9.8 million metric tons.
The final standards will significantly curb methane emissions from new, reconstructed and modified processes and equipment, along with reducing VOC emissions from sources not covered in the agency’s 2012 rules, says EPA. These sources include hydraulically fractured oil wells, some of which can contain a large amount of gas along with oil, and equipment used across the industry that was not regulated in the 2012 rules.
Methane is the main component of natural gas and it is a greenhouse that is 84-times more powerful than carbon dioxide, albeit it dissipates after 20 years in the atmosphere. The Obama administration wants to cut methane releases from oil and gas sources by 40-45 percent by 20205.
“Today, we are underscoring the Administration’s commitment to finding commonsense ways to cut methane—a potent greenhouse gas fueling climate change—and other harmful pollution from the oil and gas sector,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Together these new actions will protect public health and reduce pollution linked to cancer and other serious health effects while allowing industry to continue to grow and provide a vital source of energy for Americans across the country.”
“The U.S. oil and gas industry pumps out almost 10 million metric tons of methane pollution a year from thousands of sites in communities all across the nation,” adds Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund. “It’s a tremendous threat to our climate, and a needless waste of valuable resources. Cutting this pollution is the fastest, cheapest path to slow the warming we will otherwise see in the next 20 years.”
But Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute said that these “common sense” rules are the first step toward more federal regulation of existing oil and gas operations.
“If these ‘commonsense standards’ for the EPA’s methane rule are anything like the ‘commonsense standards’ used for their power plant rules, we’re in for another long battle of correcting the agency’s mistakes.”
“Today, the Administration continued down an ill-advised path that threatens to prevent manufacturers’ access to substantial supplies of oil and natural gas,” adds Ross Eisenberg, vice president of energy and policy for the National Association of Manufacturers. “The rules finalized today, coupled with a suite of recently issued and announced regulations, only reiterate manufacturers’ wariness about the future of U.S. energy policy and our ability to continue powering our facilities with affordable and reliable energy.”