Published: Fri, August 30, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

EPA will roll back rules on methane emissions

EPA will roll back rules on methane emissions

In a statement describing the proposal, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler reiterated an argument against such regulations often used by the oil and gas industry: "The Trump Administration recognizes that methane is valuable, and the industry has an incentive to minimize leaks and maximize its use".

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that easing a 2016 regulation that specifically targeted methane emissions from oil and gas wells, pipelines and storage would save energy companies up to $123 million through 2025.

The agency predicts its proposal would save the oil and natural gas industry $17 million to $19 million per year. Milito noted that by 2023, 90 percent of oil and gas facilities will have to install technology curbing volatile organic compounds.

Isdal said the agency also considered smaller producers and that the rule doesn't preclude companies from taking additional steps to reduce methane emissions.

The proposal was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. That attempt was overruled by a federal court.

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BP's recent exit from Alaska is symbolic of the current trend in the oil industry, as major players "retreat from traditional strongholds", Liam Denning writes in a Bloomberg op-ed.

Ben Ratner, a senior director at the advocacy group Environmental Defense Fund, said in an interview that rolling back the regulations could reward bad actors in the industry.

"We believe sound environmental policies are foundational to the vital role natural gas can play in the energy transition and have made clear our support of 2016 law to regulate methane from new and modified onshore sources", she said. "We will continue to urge the EPA to retain the main features of the existing methane rule", a company official said. As investors, we expect to see our companies publicly denounce this proposal and the increased risk it presents to the entire industry, not to mention the planet. And several environmental groups were sharply critical of the proposal Thursday. The American Lung Association said it "strongly opposes" it.

However, if the regulations do go into effect, it could have significant effects on the climate crisis. The gas has more than 80 times the heat-trapping potential of carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after it escapes into the atmosphere, scientists say. Methane is at first much more risky than carbon dioxide when it comes to the climate because of how effectively it absorbs heat. The proposals made today are separate from and in addition to a 2018 proposed rule that eased methane reporting and monitoring requirements for oil- and gas-extraction businesses. The agency said it also plans to finalize a related methane rule "in the upcoming months". The proposal would also remove parts of the transmission and storage segments of the oil and gas industry⁠-generally called the midstream business⁠-from being subject to regulation, by claiming the agency was out of line when it added sources such as transmission compressor stations, pneumatic controllers, and underground storage vessels to the rule. Earlier this week, the President skipped a climate change session at the G7 meeting in France, citing a scheduling conflict.

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