OIL & GAS INDUSTRY ; EPA to Clamp Down; Methane Emissions Would Be Cut 40-50% over Next 10 Years

By Ward, Ken | Charleston Gazette Mail, August 19, 2015 | Go to article overview

OIL & GAS INDUSTRY ; EPA to Clamp Down; Methane Emissions Would Be Cut 40-50% over Next 10 Years


Ward, Ken, Charleston Gazette Mail


The Obama administration on Tuesday proposed "a suite of commonsense requirements" that the Environmental Protection Agency said are part of a strategy aimed at reducing the emissions of heat- trapping methane from the nation's booming oil and gas industry by 40 percent to 45 percent over the next decade. EPA acting air- pollution chief Janet McCabe told reporters that the agency effort - actually a collection of four rules, guidelines and plans - "shows how serious this administration is about taking actions on climate change and protecting public health.

The EPA said 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, the EPA said.

While burning natural gas produces roughly half the power plant emissions of carbon dioxide as burning coal, scientists have in the past few years become increasingly concerned about the climate- change impact of uncontrolled emissions of methane from leaks in various parts of natural gas production.

Even as the EPA was issuing its new requirements, a new peer- reviewed study from Colorado State University researchers reported that methane emissions from natural gas "gathering facilities, which collect gas from multiple wells, are "substantially higher than they previously were believed to be.

"The EPA is catching up with the gas and oil industry on climate change, said James Van Nostrand, director of the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development at the West Virginia University College of Law. "It doesn't make sense to substitute natural gas for coal if we don't do anything about the methane leaks throughout the natural gas and oil production process.

President Obama has tried to walk a tightrope on natural gas drilling, embracing some of the benefits from increased production using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in areas like the Marcellus Shale region of West Virginia, while also, as the EPA said Tuesday, "helping ensure that development of these energy resources is safe and responsible.

The EPA said its new proposals would complement rules issued in 2012 and would extend emissions-reduction requirements further "downstream, to cover other equipment in the natural gas transmission segment of the industry. …

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