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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued last week a new rule intended to clarify the oil and gas emissions data drilling companies submit to EPA’s greenhouse gas reporting program (GHGRP). The new regulation takes effect at the beginning of next year and reflects a better picture of the methane pollution from oil and gas production.

Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is an enormously potent greenhouse gas polluter. Scientists now estimate that methane traps 86 times more heat over a twenty-year period than the same amount of carbon dioxide. These improved new reporting requirements place more emphasis on emissions beyond the wellhead. As a result, gas industry leaks from all aspects of the production, transmission, and distribution now get reported to GHGRP.

This new rule from EPA is especially timely. In fact, a number of federal agencies currently are working on many fronts to develop ways to protect the planet from some of the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. Yet, they are running out of time. Not just due to fracking’s contributions to climate change, but also because the political clock is ticking.

A Step Forward

Among the rules we’re looking for is an EPA initiative to directly regulate methane under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act. Current EPA air rules for the oil and gas industry only limit methane by coincidence. A methane rule could cut these dangerous emissions in half using already available cost-effective technologies. Turns out, capturing methane saves the planet and saves the industry money- since the gas is their stock and trade.

Toward a Long-Term Solution

The best way to curb air pollution from fossil fuel development is to leave it in the ground. Our continued reliance on fossil fuels, including natural gas, threatens the public health of communities living near this development and contributes to global warming. Instead, we need an immediate shift from an “all of the above” energy strategy to one that throws the full weight of our resources behind renewables to address the climate crisis. Wind and solar energy are cost competitive with fossil fuels, and brings along with them more jobs, cleaner air and a healthier climate.