Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed two pollution rules for methane, a component of natural gas, and other pollutants from new and modified sources in the oil and gas sector. Methane is a critical aspect to addressing the climate crisis, as it is more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping greenhouse gas over the short term.
The rules will require oil and gas companies to find and fix methane leaks in their often-aging equipment. These safeguards, which go well beyond the 2016 rules in several important respects, demonstrate the administration’s commitment to addressing this potent greenhouse gas. Particularly welcome are the limitations on emissions from pneumatic controllers and the quarterly monitoring requirements for large existing oil and gas production facilities.
The administration must also strengthen the rules to better address flaring emissions and monitoring of low-producing, high-polluting wells that disproportionately harm front-line communities. Additional rule making efforts by other federal agencies, in particular the Bureau of Land Management, will be critical to a comprehensive approach to this potent greenhouse gas, both on the ground and in the atmosphere.
The EPA’s 2021 Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report confirms the oil and gas industry is a top emitter of methane pollution in the U.S. Today’s rules will contribute to President Biden’s Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan, and its goal of reducing U.S. emissions 30% by 2030 as part of a global climate goal. The rules associated with the administration’s plan are expected to create jobs in a robust methane mitigation sector and orphaned well mitigation economy for oil and gas workers, as well. These are key pieces to a just transition away from fossil fuel production in the U.S. Reducing methane pollution from the oil and gas sector is wildly popular, with recent, national polling finding 70% support among voters.
“EPA’s proposal of these rules to strengthen controls on emissions of methane, a climate super polluter, from new and existing oil and gas operations sets in place a key piece of the Biden administration’s efforts to tackle climate change,” said Melissa Hornbein, senior attorney for the Western Environmental Law Center. “The oil and gas sector is the largest industrial emitter of methane. Repairing leaks of super-polluting methane is an obvious emissions-reducing move. Capturing more methane will create profit for the oil and gas industry over the long term, which is why it is politically viable enough to be proposed today. We need to remember that while these rules are a critically important first step, they are not a panacea to this extraordinarily urgent global emergency. The only real solution to the climate crisis is a rapid, just transition away from fossil fuels entirely.”