The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced the first-ever proposed federal methane pollution standards for new and modified oil and gas facilities – a landmark announcement and critical first step in reducing the growth of methane and smog-forming emissions from the industry.
It’s a terrific start, but it only will get us part of the way. What the proposed rule does not address is emissions from existing operations, which in a state like Pennsylvania where there has already been tremendous development, is a really big deal. In fact, the majority of emissions in our state over the next decade will come from existing sources, and will not be subject to the proposed federal rule.
That’s why PEC is urging Pennsylvania to enact comprehensive, mandatory regulations that cover both existing and new sources of methane emissions from oil and gas operations.
Studies on methane emissions demonstrate that this is a growing problem for the industry and the environment. In fact, a study released today shows that previously unrecorded emissions from thousands of gathering facilities are eight times higher than estimates. According to the study, this escaped gas could heat 3.2 million homes.
This is not only a wasted resource, it’s a huge climate problem. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that traps more than 80 times as much heat over a 20-year period than carbon dioxide; that short term climate impact is equivalent to 160 coal-fired power plants.
Cutting these emissions is one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways to reduce greenhouse gases. A study by ICF International has found that the oil and gas industry could reduce methane emissions by 40 percent for about one penny per thousand cubic feet of natural gas produced. And many of the measures to reduce these emissions are as basic as monitoring leaks and prioritizing repairs.
States like Colorado, among others, have already proven that you can have robust emission controls without affecting production. It’s time for Pennsylvania to step up and join other leading states in addressing both current and future methane emissions. It’s cost effective, will prevent the waste of an important energy resource, and will pay huge dividends in reducing our greenhouse gas footprint.