Today, the Obama administration announced plans to regulate methane pollution from oil and gas production for the first time.
The proposed rules would cover new and modified oil and gas production sources, and natural gas processing and transmission sources, but omit hundreds of thousands of existing oil and gas wells and other operations. The Clean Air Act allows for the regulation of existing sources by the EPA, and it is estimated that almost 90% of projected 2018 emissions will come from oil production and existing natural gas infrastructure.
“Although these new rules are a welcome step in the right direction, they only govern new sources of methane pollution,” said Earthworks Executive Director Jennifer Krill. She continued, “Recent studies show the worst methane polluters include aging or even abandoned facilities. Global warming doesn’t care if a greenhouse gas source is new or old, and neither should these rules. Meaningful reductions in methane pollution from existing sources cannot be tackled by voluntary measures.”
Directly regulating methane emissions from oil and gas production can also help those living with air pollution from wells, compressor stations, and other oil and gas facilities. Capturing methane could cut VOC (volatile organic compounds, including carcinogens like benzene) pollution by an estimated 570,000 to 830,000 metric tons per year or more — but only if existing sources of pollution are required to comply.
“Right now, my family’s health literally changes with the wind. We had to evacuate from our home last year due to oil and gas air pollution,” said Eric Ewing, an eastern Colorado resident who lives within one mile of more than 40 oil and gas operations. He continued, “the President can protect families like mine that live near oil and gas. But only if he’s willing to stop all methane polluters, not just new ones.”
The latest spate of news that renewables are cost competitive with fossil fuels recently preceded the Obama administration's methane announcement.
“Regulating air pollution from fracking-related development is necessary to protect the health of those living near it,” said Krill. She continued, “But the best protection for communities and the climate is to move away from fossil fuels towards clean energy. The time for ‘all of the above’ is over. Those in power need to choose clean energy now.”