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August 20, 2015
EPA Proposes Methane Cuts for Oil and Gas Sector
    by Robert Kropp

The proposed standards, part of the Obama administration's Climate Action Plan, will reduce methane emissions in the oil and gas industry by as much as 45% by 2025.

The Obama administration's Climate Action Plan, published last year, directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue regulatory standards intended to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, which is responsible for almost one-third of such emissions domestically. While methane is a less prevalent greenhouse gas (GHG) than carbon dioxide, it is far more potent, especially in a medium-term time frame.

In July, a coalition of institutional investors representing $1.5 trillion in assets under management expressed its support for the administration’s actions on methane emissions. Coordinated by Ceres and Trillium Asset Management, the
coalition stated, “Consistent with our fiduciary duties, we are concerned that methane emissions pose a serious threat to climate stability, accelerating the rate of warming in the near term and threatening infrastructure and economic harm that will weaken not only the companies we invest in, but the nation as a whole.”

This week, the EPA released its
proposed standards for methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. “The proposal is a part of the Administration’s strategy under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025,” the agency stated.

The proposed standards require the following:
1. Finding and repairing leaks;
2. Capturing natural gas from the completion of hydraulically fractured oil wells;
3. Limiting emissions from new and modified pneumatic pumps; and
4. Limiting emissions from several types of equipment used at natural gas transmission compressor stations, including compressors and pneumatic controllers.

The agency also updated a 2012 ruling to include methane among the volatile organic compounds (VOC) covered by the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS). The proposed standards also add oil and gas transmission equipment to methane sources that will be required to reduce methane emissions.

“We are underscoring our commitment to reducing the pollution fueling climate change and protecting public health while supporting responsible energy development, transparency and accountability,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Cleaner-burning energy sources like natural gas are key compliance options for our Clean Power Plan and we are committed to ensuring safe and responsible production that supports a robust clean energy economy.”

Cleaner burning than oil, to be sure, but there remains the issue of the potency of methane emissions. In an interesting post at
Think Progress, Joe Romm wrote, “Here is the EPA’s own news release from Tuesday on its on its proposed new methane rule: 'Methane, the key constituent of natural gas, is a potent GHG with a global warming potential more than 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide.'”

In reality, Romm pointed out, “methane is 34 times stronger a heat-trapping gas than CO2 over a 100-year time scale,” as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated in 2013. The EPA's own web site, Romm continued, states that methane has a global warming potential of as much as 36.

Observing further that the mainstream media persists in low-balling the destructive potential of methane, Romm wrote, “The media needs to start getting its facts straight, especially since we know that methane leaks from the entire natural gas lifecycle from fracking to combustion significantly undercut or eliminate any meaningful climate benefit from the fracking boom.”


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