New and modified oil and gas wells in the United States will face tougher regulations on their methane output, based on a final rule released last week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
If it is fully implemented, the new rule will reduce methane releases by 525,000 tons in 2025, the equivalent of 11 megatons of carbon dioxide. The EPA cast the regulation as the first step in its effort to cut methane emissions 40 to 45% from 2012 levels by 2025.
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“The agency also said it is kicking off work on a rule for methane leaks at existing wells, but acknowledged that won’t come until after [President Barack] Obama has left office,” The Hill reports.
“The common-sense steps we are rolling out today will help combat climate change and reduce air pollution [in ways] that will immediately help improve public health,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “We continue to see this as enormously cost-effective, and we also predict it will have very little impact in terms of the cost of natural gas, and literally no impact on the cost of oil production.”
The EPA “estimates the cost for drillers to comply with the rule will total US$530 million by 2025, but that they will recover enough natural gas to make it worth their while,” writes The Hill’s Devin Henry.
The draft methane rule for existing oil and gas wells received nearly 900,000 comments—and one of the main instigators of that feedback, the Environmental Defense Fund, was out almost immediately with a thank-you petition to McCarthy. “The EPA just finalized America’s first-ever national limits on the dangerous methane pollution emitted by the oil and gas industry—and we couldn’t have done it without your help,” the EDF wrote. “But we’ve seen climate and clean air protections repeatedly attacked in the states, the courts, and Congress—so we need to let Administrator McCarthy know she has our support as she takes on this next challenge.”
The American Petroleum Institute critiqued what it saw as a burdensome regulation for an industry that is already beginning to address its methane emissions. “Methane regulation under this rule is bad for consumers and not necessarily good for the environment either,” said Senior Director of Regulatory Affairs Howard Feldman. “Imposing a one-size-fits-all scheme on the industry could actually stifle innovation and discourage investments in new technologies that could serve to further reduce emissions,” added Vice President of Regulatory and Economic Policy Kyle Isakower.
But an analysis on Grist points to the limited scope of the initial regulation. “Between the new rule and a related set of 2012 regulations, EPA has suggested that we are currently on course for a 20 to 30% cut in methane emissions by 2025. However, the Obama administration has promised a 40 to 45% cut by that year, meaning more action is needed,” writes correspondent Clayton Aldern.
“Thursday’s regulations only cover new and modified wells, and Environmental Defense Fund research suggests that by 2018, nearly 90% of methane emissions from the oil and gas sector will come from sources that existed before 2012.”