EPA today released first-ever standards to control methane pollution from the oil and gas industry, the largest man-made source of these emissions. The rule is a key component in meeting President Obama’s goals for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 40-45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025. Methane warms the climate over 80 times more than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. And methane emissions reductions stand to benefit more than just the climate — this move will improve public health, generate royalties and reduce waste.
“It’s good to see the federal government finally recognize methane as a dangerous climate pollutant,” said Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, executive director of the Western Environmental Law Center. “By reducing methane pollution from oil and gas development, this rule will help clean up our western skies, safeguard our climate, protect our communities, and plug the leakage, each year, of over 171 million dollars of wasted natural gas in Colorado and New Mexico.”
In New Mexico alone, oil and natural gas producers wasted more than 250,000 metric tons of methane in 2013 — nearly enough to meet the annual cooking and heating needs for all the homes in Albuquerque and double the greenhouse gas emissions of the state’s 700,000 cars. Taxpayers in the state have also missed out on $42.7 million in royalty revenues since 2009.
Low-cost solutions to curb leaks are readily available. Studies reveal they would cost a penny on average per thousand cubic feet of gas, or 0.3 percent of today’s natural gas price.
“We’re glad to see reasonable measures to stop the oil and gas industry from continuing to foul the air in the San Juan Basin due to their leaking facilities,” said Mike Eisenfeld, New Mexico energy coordinator for the San Juan Citizens Alliance. “The rule is going to help us tackle the sources that have caused the national disgrace of New Mexico’s 2,500-square-mile methane ‘hot spot.'”
“We welcome EPA’s help in protecting the health of the people surrounded by more and more oil and gas development,” said Lori Goodman, director of Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment. “Our communities are being hurt, and it’s time to put an end to this industry’s reckless, out-of-control practices.”
The mandatory emissions reduction rule comes shortly after EPA’s announcement of a new voluntary methane emission reduction program. Voluntary programs, while well intentioned, have garnered minimal participation from industry, with only 10 of New Mexico’s 475 oil and gas producers participating in the agency’s Natural Gas STAR program. Today’s mandatory rules are a great step in the right direction.
The EPA page with more information about these rules is available here.
Read more about our methane emissions reduction work.
Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, Western Environmental Law Center, 575-613-4197,
Tom Singer, Western Environmental Law Center, 505-231-1070,
Mike Eisenfeld, San Juan Citizens Alliance, 505-360-8994,
Carol Davis, Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, 928-221-7859,