New EPA methane regs target oil and gas emissions

FLIR still images 3-18-15

[Photos by Pete Dronkers/Earthworks]

The Obama administration will unveil on Thursday the first federal standards aimed at curbing methane emissions from the oil and natural gas industry. The regulations, which were finalized today, were proposed by the EPA last year, as the Obama administration pursues a broader climate agenda which calls for clamping down on greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. The rules are one piece of the administration’s overall goal to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas industry by as much as 45% from their 2012 levels over the next decade.

Unfortunately the rules will only affect new oil and gas wells, but they set the framework for the EPA to impose similar requirements on nearly 1 million existing wells and other equipment in gasfields across the U.S. Companies will be required to install monitoring equipment, and to limit emissions of methane during the production and transmission process of natural gas, meaning pipelines are also included. Regular inspections for leaks, as well as repairs, will also be required.

During the March summit with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, President Obama promised the U.S. would also go after methane emissions from existing oil and gas facilities. As a result of that pledge, the EPA is set to begin work on proposed rules by formally asking oil and gas companies for detailed information about methane emissions from those existing facilities.

The broad scope of the rules on new and modified sources is significant because it sets the precedent for how far the EPA can go with future mandates for existing oil & gas facilities.

“It’s like a gate swinging open,” said Conrad Schneider, senior counsel and legal director of the Clean Air Task Force. “If they only open it halfway, existing sources will be narrow. There is an opportunity to open the gate as wide as possible so a comprehensive existing source rule will follow from this.”




Obama’s new oil & gas air pollution rule is a step forward for climate & communities

Statement of Earthworks Policy Director Lauren Pagel on the publication of the final EPA rule governing methane pollution from new and modified oil and gas facilities

Today, the Obama administration finalized the first national standard to cut methane pollution from new and modified sources of oil and gas production. The rule will also cut associated pollution emitted with methane: volatile organic compounds like benzene, a carcinogen.

With an infrared camera that makes visible this normally invisible pollution, Earthworks has documented more than 200 releases across the United States. And we detect this pollution at the vast majority of sites we visit. In response to the new rule, Earthworks’ Policy Director Lauren Pagel said:

“The Obama administration’s new national standard to cut methane pollution from oil and gas facilities is an important step to protect our climate and the health of nearby communities.

“But even more important is the Obama administration’s April announcement that they will begin the process to cut pollution at the million-plus existing oil and gas operations. Only then will communities now harmed by this pollution finally get some relief.

“It’s essential to remember that no matter how stringent our methane pollution controls, burning fossil fuels pollutes the climate. That’s why there’s no substitute for replacing fossil fuels as quickly as possible with truly clean energy alternatives like renewables and conservation.”

For more information

Methane Pollution from the Oil & Gas Industry

EPA: Addressing greenhouse gases and smog forming VOCs from the oil and gas industry

Map of 200+ infrared videos of the type of pollution that will be governed by this rule

Garfield County Citizens Empowerment Project

Garfield County FLIR Tour — Garfield County Citizens Empowerment Project

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2 Comments on “New EPA methane regs target oil and gas emissions”

  1. robert dresdner Says:

    How many tons of methane are from existing sources, old wells? I doubt EPA [via its friendly industry sources] has bothered to publish or even produce a good estimate. Of course over a decade ago, or at least when I was at EPA, EPA grunts knew that methane emissions from these sources were likely huge [over 250 tpy ie “significant”] and should be controlled [under CAA Section 112]. Is the final rule’s 45% control adequate? Has lobbying at EPA [and higher] stopped?

  2. Peggy Tibbetts Says:

    According to the EPA they have begun the process of requesting emissions data from operators for existing facilities. I’m sure 45% is probably inadequate but it’s a start. And no, the lobbying will never stop.

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