As it develops regulations for climate-busting methane releases from oil and gas wells, Canada “needs to keep its eyes on the states where action has taken hold,” the U.S. Environmental Defense Fund argues in a recent post on The Energy Collective.
Although the new U.S. administration is abandoning methane regulations introduced during the Obama presidency, “U.S. states are accelerating steps to reduce oil and gas air pollution,” EDF reports. “Tighter controls for oil and gas emissions are popping up in red and blue states—including California, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Wyoming.”
Most recently Ohio, with its House, Senate, and governor’s mansion in Republican hands, “joined the list of states targeting oil and gas emissions, with a new methane policy that requires operators to check for leaks at compressor stations four times a year.”
The EDF—along with the now-departed science-based management at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—has long argued that fossil operators can save millions of dollars per year by controlling emissions of methane, a short-acting greenhouse gas that has many times the global warming impact of carbon dioxide. Last June in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mexican President Enrique Peña-Nieto, and then-U.S. president Barack Obama agreed to jointly reduce methane emissions 40 to 45% from 2012 levels by 2025.
In the U.S., that commitment is now shifting to the state level. Colorado, the first to institute its own methane controls in 2014, is already enjoying the benefits. “States are seeing the job creation potential by managing methane emissions,” EDF notes, with hundreds of U.S. companies producing methane control equipment or delivering mitigation services. And “individual companies are also realizing the financial upside of controlling their emissions. In Wyoming, for example, one operator was able to boost operational efficiencies and recoup $5 million in what otherwise would have been wasted gas by enhancing leak detection and repair practices.”
Similar initiatives in Canada will “not only [help] fulfill its climate goals, but ensure that oil and gas companies operating in Canada and the states remain on an even playing field,” EDF states. The fact that existing or pending state regulations already go farther than forthcoming Canadian regulations “is a powerful data point that speaks to the feasibility of addressing oil and gas methane emissions, both politically and technically.”
Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna reinforced that theme in Calgary last week, telling the local chamber of commerce the new federal regulations “will make the Canadian oil and gas industry more competitive, not less,” the Calgary Herald reports.
“I had a great discussion with industry,” she said. “We’re moving forward with industry, we’re going to develop thoughtful regulations, because we know it’s the right thing to do. It will reduce emissions, but it’s also a real opportunity for Canada.”
Citing McKenna, the Herald described methane controls as “one of the cheapest ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
Carbon consultant Jackson Hegland, executive director of the Methane Emissions Leadership Alliance (MELA), had the same message for participants at a recent oil and gas symposium hosted by the Canadian Energy Research Institute. “When you’re looking at the regulatory risk profile for your organization, all of these risks, whether it’s NOx, benzene, or [greenhouse gas] emissions, [they] are going to be or should be a part of your management strategy around your environmental liability,” he said.
“Don’t wait for the draft regulations to come out,” Hegland urged participants. “There is a very short timeline to get a handle on this within each of our organizations,” and “we know enough on the policy development side without having to know the details of the regulations to determine that our data collection management systems need to be airtight by the time these regulations come through.”