The Trump administration is working to reverse Obama administration rules that would limit the amount of methane gas that can be emitted into the atmosphere in oil- and gas-drilling and operations. Inside we press release todayThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it proposes to relax the Obama-era rules, saving the company $484 million in avoided energy costs.
But the EPA hopes to justify its rules with analysis. That analysis (PDF) suggests that reversing this process will also come with costs in the form of 308,000 short tons of methane released between 2019 and 2025. For context, the Aliso Canyon gas leak three years ago represents an accidental release. largest leak of methane in US history, and in the four months that workers struggled to plug that well, 107,000 short tons of methane are estimated to have been released.
That’s a significant amount of methane with significant short-term climate consequences. Methane is many times less powerful than CO2 like carbon dioxide, although it dissipates in the air more quickly. Carbon dioxide stays around in the atmosphere for a long time, but each CO molecule2 has no more warming effect than a molecule of methane.
The EPA’s own analysis also says that over an additional 100,000 short tons of volatile organic compounds and 3,800 short tons of hazardous air pollutants will also be emitted, compared to keeping the rules in place.
Under Obama-era rules, oil and gas drilling companies and producers face requirements to monitor their methane emissions quarterly, looking for leaks that could be releasing pollutants into the air. Under the new proposed rule, the EPA only wants oil and gas companies to find leaks semi-annually or annually. A recent study suggests that methane leaks from oil and gas plants are very negligible, almost (but not quite) to the point where burning natural gas is as harmful to the environment from the perspective of daylight as wildfires.
current EPA proposed action will (PDF) would not only reduce the frequency with which the oil and gas industry would have to monitor for methane leaks, it would also relax requirements for companies to have a professional engineer certify that methane emission standards are met. Additionally, the EPA’s fact sheet suggests that the agency is considering extending the time a company has to complete an initial emissions investigation after a well is installed. Currently, the rules require that an operator has 60 days to monitor for emissions. No specific extended period is suggested. The EPA also suggests giving the oil and gas industry additional time to repair any gas leaks it finds.
The Trump administration has faced several legal challenges over the issue of these methane laws. The EPA under former Administrator Scott Pruitt tried to ease up on not enforcing the Obama-era rules while providing analysis for a more effective regulatory rollback, but the agency was ordered to enforce those rules by the Court of Appeals. USA in 2017.
The EPA will hold a public hearing on the proposed rules in Denver, Colorado, on a date yet to be determined.