EPA Escalates Oil & Gas Methane Emissions Crackdown

by | Mar 10, 2016

gas flaringThe EPA is escalating its efforts to limit methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, and will begin developing regulations to limit these releases from existing oil and gas wells.

Next month, the agency says it will start a formal process to require oil and gas companies to provide information to help develop the new rules.

Over the summer, the EPA proposed regulations to limit methane emissions from new and modified sources in the oil and gas sector as part of its plan to cut such emissions, which are 25-times more potent than carbon dioxide, by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025. Earlier this year the US Interior Department proposed a methane emissions rule to limit venting, flaring and leaking from oil and gas operations on public and American Indian lands.

The new methane regulations are part of a climate pact between US President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, announced today. The two heads of state said their respective countries would work to sign the Paris climate agreement “as soon as feasible” and play leadership roles internationally in promoting a low-carbon economy.

Canada also committed to regulate methane emissions from new oil and gas wells and reduce these emissions by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025. Both countries pledged to reduce use and emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and said they will propose new actions this year.

In addition to limiting greenhouse gas emissions, the US and Canada said they would increase action to protect the Arctic by setting standards on shipping, fishing and oil and gas exploration and development using “science-based decision making.”

Methane Emissions ‘Substantially Higher’ Than We Thought

At last month’s IHS CERAWeek, the world’s largest gathering of oil executives, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said, “methane emissions from existing sources in the oil and gas sector are substantially higher than we previously understood.”

Methane emissions accounted for almost 10 percent of US GHG emissions in 2012, of which around 30 percent came from the production, transmission and distribution of oil and gas. The EPA expects methane emissions to rise by 25 percent by 2025 unless something is done to limit these releases.

Environmental groups praised the EPA’s announcement to further reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.

“No credible plan to combat climate change can ignore methane emissions, which are the second largest industrial source of climate-changing pollution after power plants,” said David Doniger, director of the climate and clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We welcome the administration’s commitment to use its authority under the Clean Air Act to safeguard our communities and our planet. The danger is real and urgent and the Environmental Protection Agency must act without delay.”

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