EPA Rolls Out Methane Restrictions for Big Oil

     (CN) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency laid out new restrictions for methane emissions in the oil and gas production process in hopes of achieving commitments made in the Paris climate-change agreement this past December.
     These new standards, released on May 12, are a part of the Obama administration’s goal of reducing methane pollution in the United States by 40 to 45 percent of 2012 levels by 2025.
     “Today, we are underscoring the administration’s commitment to finding common-sense ways to cut methane — a potent greenhouse gas fueling climate change — and other harmful pollution from the oil and gas sector,” EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement.
     The EPA estimates that the new regulations will cost $530 million more per year, which is at least 25 percent higher than projections released with the preliminary version in August.
     Ross Eisenberg, vice president of energy and resources policy for the National Association of Manufacturers, criticized the new standards in a statement, claiming they will create unforeseen issues and damage the country’s economy.
     “Today, the administration continued down an ill-advised path that threatens to prevent manufacturers’ access to substantial supplies of oil and natural gas,” Eisenberg said. “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.”
     Eisenberg pointed out that the shale boom — advances in oil and natural gas production technology thanks to the combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — added 1.9 million jobs in 2015, and demand for oil and natural resources is expected to increase 40 percent by 2025.
     But the EPA says the new standards will actually save the oil and gas companies money by avoiding costly floods, storms and other issues associated with climate change.
     “The common-sense steps we’re rolling out today will help combat climate change and reduce air pollution that immediately harms public health,” McCarty said on a conference call with reporters.
     The agency estimates that savings will reach $690 million per year by 2025.
     “Methane is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States from human activities, and nearly one-third of those emissions come from oil production and the production, transmission and distribution of natural gas,” the agency said.
     Methane is the key component of natural gas, and can impact global climate change about 25 times more than carbon dioxide — presuming these gases are released at equal thresholds. Methane has also been shown to warm the atmosphere 84 times more than carbon dioxide over a two-decade period.
     The new standards are expected to reduce 510,000 short tons of methane in 2025, the equivalent of reducing 11 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
     Such reduction will come from curbing methane emissions from modified, reconstructed and new processes and equipment, in addition to reducing volatile organic compound emissions from sources not covered in the EPA’s 2012 rules. This includes hydraulically fractured oil wells.
     Over 900,000 comments were left on the EPA’s website following its initial proposal in August 2015. Several voiced concerns that the agency’s first draft of new regulations did not go far enough.
     The EPA ultimately removed a proposed waiver for low-producing wells that generate less than 15 barrels per day of oil or natural gas, which could have exempted thousands of wells annually.
     Environmentalists’ desire for additional inspections each year was also adopted, which requires companies to search for methane at compressor stations four times a year instead of twice.
     “EPA’s methane standards for new and modified oil and gas sources are a critical step in addressing climate change. We will remain steadfast in our efforts urging EPA to move expeditiously on its commitment to address existing sources of this highly potent greenhouse gas,” Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said in a statement.
     The new regulations are one of the first efforts by the United States to limit its contributions to climate change since signing the Paris Climate agreement April 22. Another 174 nations signed the accord in a record-breaking first-day signing of an international agreement.
     The signing was mostly symbolic, however, and most of the nations that signed the agreement still must approve it domestically.
     “In taking this important first step, the EPA and the Obama administration are rejecting the status quo that has allowed the oil and gas industry to recklessly pollute communities around the country for so long,” Brune said.

%d bloggers like this: