EPA Releases First-Ever Federal Methane Regs

Aug 18, 2015

Methane is one of the principal components of natural gas. It is also a greenhouse gas that is around 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Today, the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled the first-ever federal regulations to limit those emissions from oil and gas production. 

According to the EPA, it is targeting oil and gas because that industry is responsible for around 30% of all methane emissions. That is bad for the environment but is also a waste. According to a new study led by Colorado State University Researchers, the methane leakage at natural gas gathering facilities could be enough to heat 3.2 million homes if it was captured.

The EPA’s new regulations are part of a larger strategy to reduce methane emissions by 40% by the year 2025. Proposed fixes include better leak monitoring and focusing on key pieces of equipment where much of the methane tends to escape. 

“Today’s proposal will establish a consistent of national standards and guidelines to provide industry with a clear pathway for safe and responsible operation and energy development in the future based on best practices already in use by some companies and already in use by some states," EPA's Janet McCabe said.

One of those states is Colorado. It recently became the first to regulate methane emissions from oil and gas development currently underway. The EPA’s standards apply to new and modified equipment only.

John Robitaille is the Vice President of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming. He says Wyoming too is a leader in air quality control but that these regulations could affect oil and gas companies, depending on their size.

“So I’m not sure that much of this is going to significantly impact all of our producers in Wyoming. But I think some of these things will impact some of our producers in Wyoming,” Robitaille said.

The EPA’s new methane regulations are part of President Obama’s climate change agenda and come just weeks after his administration unveiled its final draft of the Clean Power Plan. That is the rule to cut carbon emissions from coal fired power plants. There are more environmental regulations on the horizon to address environmental issues involving ozone levels, and hydraulic fracturing on federal lands,