Canadian Manufacturing

EPA takes aim at methane emissions

Agency's new proposal would require oil and gas companies to reduce methane emissions to 40 per cent below 2005 levels



WASHINGTON—In the second major move targeting emissions in the energy sector this month, the Environmental Protection Agency, is proposing major cuts to methane emissions in the U.S. oil and gas sector.

As part of U.S. President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the EPA is proposing “commonsense” standards that will call for a 40 to 45 per cent reduction below 2012 methane emission levels by 2025. The new proposal follows Obama’s Aug. 3 announcement requiring power plants to cut carbon emissions to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

The EPA noted methane, the key constituent of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential more than 25-times greater than that of carbon dioxide.

“Methane is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States from human activities, and nearly 30 percent of those emissions come from oil production and the production, transmission and distribution of natural gas,” it said.

The EPA expects the proposed standards for new and modified sources of methane to reduce methane emissions by 340,000 to 400,000 tons, which is equivalent to a CO2 reduction of 7.7 to 9 million metric tons. The net climate benefits of the cut is estimated at $120 to $150 million in 2025, the agency said.

“Today, through our cost-effective proposed standards, we are underscoring our commitment to reducing the pollution fuelling climate change and protecting public health while supporting responsible energy development, transparency and accountability,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, said.

American’s oil and gas industry, on the other hand, says the proposed regulations are “duplicative, costly, and [will] undermine America’s competitiveness, however.

“The oil and gas industry is leading the charge in reducing methane,” American Petroleum Institute president and CEO, Jack Gerard said. “The last thing we need is more duplicative and costly regulation that could increase the cost of energy for Americans.

“Even as oil and natural gas production has surged, methane emissions from hydraulically fractured natural gas wells have fallen nearly 79 percent since 2005, and CO2 emissions are down to 27-year lows. This is due to industry leadership and significant investments in new technologies,” he added.

The EPA will take comments on the proposals before holding public hearings to determine how to proceed with the regulations.

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