EPA Taking Steps to Cut Methane Emissions from Existing Oil and Gas Sources

By Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator

Today, as part of the Obama Administration’s ongoing commitment to act on climate, President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed to new actions to reduce methane pollution from the oil and natural gas sector, the world’s largest industrial source of methane. These actions build on the historic agreement that nearly 200 nations made in Paris last December to combat climate change and ensure a more stable environment for future generations.

Methane is upwards of 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide in warming the planet and is a key constituent of natural gas. By tackling methane emissions, we can unlock an amazing opportunity to spur U.S. action to protect our environment, but also unleash opportunities to think creatively and lead the world in developing a clean energy economy.

That’s why the Administration has been moving quickly and working hard to reduce emissions of this potent greenhouse gas. In 2012, we set emissions standards that cut pollution, including methane, emitted by fractured and re-fractured natural gas wells. This past summer, we proposed standards to directly address methane from new and modified sources in the oil and gas sector. Each of these steps moves the United States toward our goal of cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025.

But as science advances and new data emerge, we need to make sure we’re continuing to address the biggest climate challenges in the best ways possible. Over the past year, EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, along with studies from groups like the Environmental Defense Fund and industry and researchers at Colorado State University, Carnegie Mellon, the University of Texas, Washington State University, and others have provided significant new data on methane emitted by existing operations in the oil and gas sector.

The new data show that methane emissions are substantially higher than we previously understood. So, it’s time to take a closer look at regulating existing sources of methane emissions.

And, today, President Obama committed to doing just that. EPA will begin developing regulations for methane emissions from existing oil and gas sources. We will start this work immediately to address methane from existing sources. We intend to work swiftly, and will involve stakeholders in meaningful ways, as we have been doing all along.

We will begin with a formal process to require companies operating existing oil and gas sources to provide information to assist in the development of comprehensive regulations to reduce methane emissions. An Information Collection Request (ICR) will allow us to gather information on existing sources of methane emissions, technologies to reduce those emissions and the costs of those technologies in the production, gathering, processing, and transmission and storage segments of the oil and gas sector.

This is a routine step to assist in the development process for regulations to reduce air pollution. It helps EPA identify the most significant sources of emissions, the kinds of technologies that work best to reduce them, and how those technologies can be applied effectively.

There are hundreds of thousands of existing oil and gas sources across our country; some emit small amounts of methane, while others emit a lot. The Information Collection Request will help EPA identify, among other things, which existing sources are big emitters and how they can be effectively controlled. EPA will begin preliminary outreach to states, industry, environmental groups, communities and other organizations in the coming weeks and will launch the formal information collection process in April. This engagement will give us the opportunity to hear feedback from the public on our plans.

Throughout the process we will continue to expand opportunities for industry to voluntarily step up now to cut emissions from existing sources through EPA’s Methane Challenge program. Voluntary action to reduce methane emissions will put leading companies ahead of the game in meeting future standards.

I am pleased and proud to fulfill President Obama’s commitment to reduce methane emissions and join our Canadian colleagues in the continued fight against climate change.

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