EPA tightens methane emissions in oil and gas industry

EPA tightens methane emissions in oil and gas industry

 By Laura Arenschield
The Columbus Dispatch 
 Friday May 13, 2016 5:45 AM
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday laid out rules to limit methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, the first such nationwide regulations of their kind and a key part of President Barack Obama’s plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions and curb global climate change.The rules, initially proposed last August, were written to help the Obama administration reach its goal of cutting overall methane emissions by 40 to 45 percent by 2025.

The agency estimates that the rule will cost about $530 million in 2025 but will create climate benefits of about $690 million that same year.

The agency also expects reductions in both volatile organic compounds and air toxins, though the agency could not quantify those. Those compounds and toxins can include chemicals such as benzene, which is known to cause cancer. They also can contribute to smog, which can worsen asthma and other breathing disorders.

Jill Del Greco, a spokeswoman for the Ohio attorney general’s office, said on Thursday it was too early to say whether Ohio would challenge the methane rules, as it has challenged rules concerning emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Del Greco said the office would review the rule and confer with other state agencies.

Jackie Stewart, Ohio spokeswoman for Energy In Depth, a group that advocates for the oil and gas industry, said the federal rules are unnecessary and cumbersome.

“The industry has made voluntary efforts to reduce fugitive methane emissions, and Ohio is an example of that,” she said. “This is really an issue in regard to who’s going to regulate the industry. It’s the federal government or the states.

“And, we have taken a position on regulations with regard to the oil and natural gas industry that we always are going to support the states regulating the industry.”

Melanie Houston, with the advocacy group Ohio Environmental Council, said the rules give the federal government a critical tool to slow climate change.

“These common sense standards are a step in the right direction toward reducing one of the most potent contributors to climate change,” she said.