The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released its first standards to trim methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40% to 45% from 2012 levels by 2025.
EPA says the standards are part of the administration’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to meet targets set during the Paris climate negotiations last December. But the oil and gas industry says the regulations could have a chilling effect on natural gas drilling and production.
The final standards, released on May 12, are actually a package of three final rules that together will curb emissions methane, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and air pollutants such as benzene from new, reconstructed and modified oil and gas sources. The agency says it will also begin to develop regulations for existing oil and gas sources, but those regulations won’t be finalized until after Obama leaves office.
The New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) will set new emissions limits for methane, the principal greenhouse gas emitted by equipment and processes in the oil and gas sector. Owners and operators will also be required to find and repair leaks, known as “fugitive emissions” at natural gas well sites.
The regulations are tougher than the rules proposed last August. They remove an exemption for low production wells, and require leak monitoring surveys twice as often at compressor stations.
EPA administrator Gina McCarthy told reporters that the “common sense” regulations will protect public health and reduce pollution “while allowing industry to continue to grow and provide a vital source of energy for Americans across the country.”
The final NSPS is expected to reduce 510,000 short tons of methane in 2025, the equivalent of reducing 11 million metric tons of CO2. The benefits will outweigh the estimated costs of $530 million in 2025, EPA says.
Environmental groups generally praised the new regulations.
But officials from the oil and gas sector say that the regulations are unnecessary and that the industry is already reducing methane emissions.
Officials from the American Petroleum Institute told reporters on May 12 that the regulations could put future growth of the shale gas boom that has transformed the energy sector at risk.
API’s Vice President of Regulatory and Economic Policy Kyle Isakower said, “It doesn’t make sense that the administration would add unreasonable and overly burdensome regulations when the industry is already leading the way in reducing emissions.” He added, “Imposing a one-size-fits-all scheme on the industry could actually stifle innovation and discourage investments in new technologies that could serve to further reduce emissions.”
The rules will become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.