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EPA Seeks Massive Methane Reductions

The Obama Administration would like to see emissions reductions of 40 to 45 % by 2025

by Steven K. Gibb
January 14, 2015

The White House on Wednesday announced plans to cut emissions of the heat-trapping gas methane from the oil and natural gas industry by 40 to 45% by 2025 through new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.

The proposed rules address a projected rise in methane emissions of 25% by 2025, a pace that would constrain White House international climate change policy objectives.

EPA is warning that the increase in methane emissions will be damaging, given that methane is a potent greenhouse gas with 20 times the heat-trapping potential of carbon dioxide. The 40–45% reduction goal uses 2012 emissions as a baseline for the reductions.

Methane accounted for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2012, 30% of which came from the oil and gas production sector. Under the Clean Air Act, rules for “new sources” of pollution automatically trigger regulation on existing sources, which is the legal rationale of EPA’s proposed regulation reducing carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Environmental advocates say the plan is a strong, positive step in the right direction that aligns with White House action on the electricity sector and vehicle fuel economy standards.

Industry representatives, meanwhile, are calling the proposed rules onerous. Institute for Energy Research President Thomas Pyle describes the plan as “yet another crushing regulation aimed at driving energy prices right back up again.”

For its part, EPA is encouraging industry to pursue voluntary approaches and verify reductions. According to the agency, “Voluntary programs could reduce the need for future regulations.”

The rules will likely leverage in-use technologies to enhance completions of hydraulically fractured wells, pneumatic pumps, and address leaks from well sites and compressor stations.

Separately, the Administration announced $15 million in new Department of Energy technology funding to detect losses from natural gas distribution systems. The funding is paired with a $10 million new DOE initiative to improve quantifying methane emissions and strengthen the national greenhouse gas inventory.



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