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Climate Change: EPA seeks massive methane reductions from oil and gas sector

by Steven K. Gibb
January 15, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 3

The White House unveiled plans last week to reduce emissions of methane from the oil and gas industry by 40–45% through new EPA regulations.

Methane emissions from this sector are projected to rise 25% by 2025, constraining White House international climate change policy objectives.

EPA warns that increased emissions will be damaging because methane is a greenhouse gas 20 times as potent as carbon dioxide. The 40–45% reduction is targeted for 2025.

Methane accounted for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2012, 30% of which came from the oil and gas sector. Under the Clean Air Act, rules for “new sources” of pollution would trigger regulation on existing sources, which underpins EPA’s proposals to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Environmental advocates say the plan is a positive step that aligns with White House actions on the electricity sector and vehicle fuel standards.

Industry representatives, meanwhile, say the rules are onerous. Institute for Energy Research’s Thomas Pyle says it’s “yet another crushing regulation aimed at driving energy prices right back up again.”

EPA is encouraging industry to pursue voluntary approaches and verify reductions, saying it could “reduce the need for future regulations.”

Separately, the Obama Administration announced $25 million in new Department of Energy technology funding to detect methane loss and quantify emissions.


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