Today, US EPA proposed a rule to roll back the Obama Administration’s rule to control methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. Methane emissions from the oil and gas industry are equivalent to the emissions of one-quarter of all cars in the US, according to US EPA data. Methane emissions are also known to be 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide in contributing to climate change. Overall, methane is responsible for 10 percent of all US greenhouse gas emissions. US EPA has decided to lift the rules that would have controlled for methane emissions, which would have required monitoring, limiting leaks and regular leak inspections for new wells, storage tanks, pipelines and other transmission infrastructure.
The oil and gas industry is reportedly split on the decision. Some argue that “a lack of government backed minimum requirements to curb emissions could undermine the argument that natural gas is a cleaner fuel.”
Today’s proposal is the result of US EPA’s review of the 2016 New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for the oil and natural gas industry, which was conducted in response to President Trump’s Executive Order 13783 – Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth. US EPA’s regulatory impact analysis estimates that the proposed amendments would save the oil and natural gas industry $17-$19 million a year.
US EPA is proposing two actions – a “primary” and “alternative” proposal. Both proposals have the same result of essentially removing methane emission controls on the industry.
In its primary proposal, the Agency would remove sources in the transmission and storage segment of the oil and gas industry from the existing regulation. These sources include transmission compressor stations, pneumatic controllers, and underground storage vessels. The primary proposal also would rescind emissions limits for methane, from the production and processing segments of the industry. These sources include well completions, pneumatic pumps, pneumatic controllers, gathering and boosting compressors, natural gas processing plants and storage tanks.
In the alternative proposal, EPA would rescind all of the methane emissions limitations without removing from regulation any sources from the transmission and storage segment of the industry.
The agency also is seeking comment on alternative interpretations of EPA’s legal authority to regulate pollutants under section 111(b)(1)(A) of the Clean Air Act.
US EPA will take comment on the proposal for 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register and will hold a public hearing in Texas. US EPA notes that “details of the hearing will be announced shortly.”