Big news in the natural gas world yesterday as the EPA released their methane reduction proposals under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.
The proposed federal rules aim to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025, however they only target “new and modified sources,” and don’t go after existing sources.
Federal methane regulations are welcome and can be expanded later, but the “new and modified sources” carve-out is a big problem because, as Mark Brownstein of EDF tells Jon Hurdle, that only covers about 5% of emissions nationally. And in the more intense gas-producing states like Pennsylvania, that carve-out is really going to limit the benefits.
That’s why it’s so important for Tom Wolf to honor his campaign promise to regulate methane emissions at the state level, and to include existing sources in that process.
As the EPA release mentions, methane is a potent greenhouse gas “with a global warming potential more than 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide,” so there’s no way for natural gas to be a “bridge fuel” to a clean energy future if gas corporations don’t control their methane pollution.
Methane is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas after C02, and nearly 30 percent of human-caused methane emissions come from oil and gas production. If adopted, the rules 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.”
What would drillers have to do? It’s all simple stuff like finding and repairing leaks, capturing natural gas from completed wells, limiting emissions from new and modified pumps and compressor stations. You can read more about the specifics here, but the takeaway is that this is all eminently affordable things that the oil and gas industry nevertheless doesn’t want to be required to do.
We’re going to keep tracking this issue because it really gets to the heart of the political debate about natural gas policy in Pennsylvania. The “bridge fuel” talking point has basically won the political argument among center-left and center-right lawmakers who want to engage in good faith on the environment, but that actually has to mean something.