The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled proposed regulations Tuesday designed to clamp down on methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.
The proposed standards, the first of their kind, are part of the administration's goal to slash methane emissions from oil and gas production sources by 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025.
The proposal, which will have to go through a 60-day public comment period, covers new and modified oil and gas operations and places a focus on reducing leaks of methane, a greenhouse gas that traps 25 times more heat than carbon dioxide.
According to an EPA news release, "the proposed standards for new and modified sources are expected to reduce 340,000 to 400,000 short tons of methane in 2025, the equivalent of reducing 7.7 to 9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide."
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL,9) is among those applauding the proposed rule.
"There are steps we can take to reduce the harmful impacts of methane emissions, and this rule requires that those steps be taken by the oil and gas industries. Methane gas emissions contribute heavily to climate change and public health challenges, including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases," the congresswoman said. "The proposed rule is estimated to yield net climate benefits of $120 and $150 million in 2025, reduce emissions that contribute to global warming and substantially improve health. Methane emissions are known to cause illnesses that lead to emergency room visits, hospital admissions and reduced productivity. I look forward to the finalization of this important environmental and public health standard."
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) also cheered the plan, but said existing sources of methane emissions should also be regulated.
Here's more reaction via a statement from EDF President Fred Krupp:
The nation's oil and gas companies emit over seven million tons of methane pollution every year, equal to the greenhouse gas pollution of about 160 coal fired power plants over the next twenty years. This proposal begins the important work of ensuring that the oil and gas industry reduces this pollution.
There is ample evidence that technologies and practices exist to significantly cut methane pollution from the oil and gas industry. Some leading companies have adopted these practices, but too few have, which is why emissions remain unacceptably high. That's why we need sensible standards to set a level playing field for everyone.
Setting the first national standards for methane emissions from the oil and gas industry is an important move, but it can't be the last. This proposal addresses methane emissions from newly built and modified oil and gas operations, but not from the existing facilities that account for all of today's emissions and will still account for 90 percent of the problem by 2018.
In January, the President set a goal of reducing methane pollution 40-45% by 2025. Additional actions by government are needed to achieve this goal. The question to ask of any proposal is how far does it take us toward achieving a 45% reduction, and how quickly does it get us there?
Meleah Geertsma, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, also echoed calls for regulations on existing sources of methane emissions:
Curbing the oil and gas industry's rampant methane pollution problem is the next biggest thing the White House can do to fight climate change after addressing carbon pollution from power plants.
Reducing emissions from new oil and gas operations is an important first step. The largest source of this pollution, however, is the oil and gas infrastructure that already exists across the country. That must be addressed next.
Meaningful progress in combating this potent climate pollutant will require an industrywide cleanup--from infrastructure new and old, nationwide. We are hopeful today's announcement is just the beginning.
Meanwhile, industry groups, like the American Petroleum Institute (API), take issue with the EPA's proposed rule. API President and CEO Jack Gerard noted that the oil and gas industry has voluntarily taken action to curb methane emissions.
"The oil and gas industry is leading the charge in reducing methane," Gerard said in a statement. "The last thing we need is more duplicative and costly regulation that could increase the cost of energy for Americans."
"API supports a common sense regulatory approach that builds on cost-effective controls already required by EPA for new equipment," he added. "Combined with smart, voluntary efforts for existing sources, this approach will continue to lower methane emissions. To avoid undermining American competitiveness, we urge the EPA to coordinate its efforts and not add duplicative rules."