EPA imposes first-ever methane emissions standards; industry balks

As part of its ever-growing spread of regulatory morass, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday published new emissions standards for methane from oil and gas operations. But industry leaders say the oil and gas industry is already doing more than its part, significantly reducing emissions on its own while leading the American energy renaissance.

The EPA says the proposed standards will reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025. But the Partnership for a Better Energy Future points out that the EPA’s own numbers show that emissions from the gas and oil sector have already dropped roughly 15 percent, while domestic oil production has nearly doubled since 2005 and natural gas production has risen by about 50 percent.

Methane emissions from hydraulically-fractured natural gas wells are down 79 percent from 2005. All of the reductions are due to industry innovation, according to the Partnership.

The EPA estimates that the industry will have to spend “about $420 million to meet the standards by 2025,” according to EPA acting assistant administrator Janet McCabe, speaking to the New York Times.

With the industry leading the way on reducing emissions, the new EPA rule appears to be a costly solution in search of a problem.

“The oil and gas industry is leading the charge in reducing methane,” said American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard. “The last thing we need is more duplicative and costly regulation that could increase the cost of energy for Americans.”

Gerard and others see the new rule increasing costs for manufacturers that have expanded dramatically recently in the U.S. because of increased access to low cost energy and natural gas. Since 2010, manufacturers have added almost 900,000 new jobs.

“API supports a common sense regulatory approach that builds on cost-effective controls already required by EPA for new equipment,” said Gerard. “Combined with smart, voluntary efforts for existing sources, this approach will continue to lower methane emissions.”

Gerard and the Partnership for a Better Energy Future point out that America is in the middle of an energy renaissance and more aggressive federal regulation can only slow down that movement.

“To avoid undermining American competitiveness, we urge the EPA to coordinate its efforts and not add duplicatve rules,” said Gerard.