EPA takes steps to reduce methane pollution, oil and gas states react
On Nov. 2, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new protections to reduce pollution from the oil and natural gas industry. The proposed new Clean Air Act rule – which includes reductions from existing sources – is supposed to sharply reduce methane emissions.
This action from EPA was prompted by President Biden’s Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis.
EPA Administrator Michael Regan says, “As global leaders convene at this pivotal moment in Glasgow for the 26thConference of the Parties (COP26), it is now abundantly clear that America is back and leading by example in confronting the climate crisis with bold ambition. With this historic action, EPA is addressing existing sources from the oil and natural gas industry nationwide, in addition to updating rules for new sources, to ensure robust and lasting cuts in pollution across the country.”
According to the EPA, the proposed rule would reduce 41 million tons of methane emissions from 2023-35, which is equivalent to 920 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
The EPA plans to accomplish emission reductions through updated and broadened methane and volatile organic compounds (VOC) emission reduction requirements for new, modified and reconstructed oil and gas sources; and requirements for individual states to develop plans to limit methane emissions from existing sources.
Key features highlighted by the EPA include: a comprehensive monitoring program for well sites and compressor stations; a compliance option to allow flexibility in finding major leaks; a zero-emissions standard for both new and existing pneumatic controllers; standards to eliminate venting of associated gas, as well as requirements to capture and sell gas where sales lines are available; proposed performance standards for storage tanks, pumps and compressors; and a requirement that states engage with overburdened and underserved communities, among other stakeholders, while developing state plans.
A press release from the EPA states the agency is also requesting information on additional sources of methane, as well as input on how to structure a community monitoring program, which would, according to the EPA, “empower the public to detect and report large emission events for appropriate follow-up by owners and operators.”
Regan shares, “By building on existing technologies and encouraging innovative new solutions, we are committed to a durable final rule that is anchored in science and the law, that protects communities living near oil and natural gas facilities and advances the nation’s climate goals under the Paris Agreement.”
Gov. Mark Gordon shares the proposed rule creates industry uncertainty, as well as impacts the ability of western states to efficiently and effectively produce energy.
He says, “EPA’s latest announcement to regulate methane for new infrastructure and existing facilities adds yet another level of uncertainty to the operations of Wyoming’s oil and gas industry. This is happening just as our industry motes onto more solid footing, with increasing rig counts and the return of jobs in this sector.”
Gordon notes he believes the announcement of this proposed rule is part of “superficial climate above-all strategy” and was timed to coincide with the climate meeting in Glasgow, noting the announcement appears rushed and requires further evaluation.
“As EPA moves forward, I urge them to make sure that knowledgeable, scientific data from the oil and gas industry is carefully considered in the process,” he says. “These industries are experienced in managing methane in the oil and gas field, particularly in Wyoming.”
Gordon concludes, “Wyoming, in fact, preceded the federal government in regulating methane emissions more than a decade ago. Rather than gum-flapping, it would have been better to have recognized the efforts of western states that are already far ahead on this issue. The systematic targeting of fossil fuels from western lands through fees, taxes, royalty increases and additional levels of review will inevitably lead to higher prices at the pump.”
Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.