Following on the heels of proposals to undo power plant pollution standards and to roll back progress on clean cars, acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler today proposed to gut essential provisions of the agency’s rules to reduce methane and other air pollution from oil and gas facilities.
The proposal comes just a few months after a comprehensive study in Science found methane emissions from the U.S. oil and gas industry are 60 percent higher than EPA reports – 13 million metric tons a year. This amount nearly doubles the near-term climate impact of natural gas and represents the waste of enough natural gas to serve 10 million American homes every year.
“It’s unfortunate that the Trump Administration is once again ignoring facts and common sense only to put the interests of the nation’s worst-run oil and gas companies ahead of the health and welfare of all Americans,” said Matt Watson, Associate Vice President, Energy, Environmental Defense Fund.The proposal would severely weaken protections that have been in effect for a year, diminishing vital safeguards that would otherwise prevent 300,000 short tons of methane pollution, 150,000 short tons of smog-forming pollutants, and 1,900 short tons of toxic pollutants per year by 2020, with further reductions by 2025.
EPA itself acknowledges that its proposal will allow additional methane emissions of at least 380,000 additional tons of methane between 2019 and 2025, and that “EPA expects that the forgone [volatile organic compound] emission reductions may also degrade air quality and adversely affect health and welfare…”
The Trump Administration proposal stands in stark contrast to recent actions from oil and gas companies that recognize their long-term viability depends on reducing emissions. BP and ExxonMobil recently set methane reduction targets for their global operations; and Chevron, Equinor, and Shell joined them in committing to principles to address methane, including working with governments and NGO’s to support methane policies and regulations. Last week, ExxonMobil asserted the position that “there should be a cost-effective federal regulatory standard to manage methane emissions for both new and existing source oil and gas facilities”
“To compete in today’s energy landscape you have to be both cheap and clean.” Watson said. “The question now is whether leading companies are going to stand up against this misguided effort or let the Trump Administration take the entire industry backward.”
Today’s proposal is the first step in an apparent two-part strategy to eliminate regulation of oil and gas methane emissions entirely. If the Administration and its backers are successful, the result will be a hobbled federal framework that would likely reduce oil and gas methane emissions by no more than about three percent by 2025 according to EDF’s initial analysis.
Analysis from the International Energy Agency indicates global oil and gas methane emissions could be reduced by up to 75 percent using technologies available today and could be reduced by 50 percent at zero net cost to companies. The oil and gas sector is the largest industrial source of methane emissions in the U.S., with methane being responsible for about a quarter of the climate warming we’re experiencing today.
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