The Wall Street Journal has reported that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be rolling back some of the methane emission requirements for oil and natural gas producers. To verify the report, the news agency The Hill spoke with an EPA representative. The spokesperson issued a statement saying only that the rule is “still under interagency review.”
Trying for the third time
This is not the first time the EPA has made efforts to rescind methane emission requirements. In 2018, they proposed reducing the frequency of methane emission monitoring from once a year to every two years. This particular plan would have given the oil and natural gas industry $484 million over six years by ridding the system of unnecessary and duplicative regulations.
Another proposal in 2019 aimed to eliminate requirements that oil and gas companies install technology to monitor methane emissions from pipelines, wells and facilities. The EPA stated that companies are already interested in capturing methane. Relieving some of the financial burdens brought on by the required technology would help them continue reducing emissions on their own. In 2018, the American Petroleum Institute stated, “Significantly, methane emissions from the oil and natural gas industry are already down 14 percent since 1990 while production has increased by 50%. Clean natural gas produced through advanced technologies like hydraulic fracturing has helped reduce carbon emissions to 25-year lows. U.S. air quality continues to improve as the natural gas and oil industry remains committed to reaching our shared goals of protecting public health and the environment while meeting the nation’s energy needs.”
Methane emissions: The burden of cost
While many large energy industry companies such as BP and ExxonMobil applaud and encourage continued regulations, many small and mid-sized companies are on the side of the roll-backs. Those larger companies are more able to absorb the added costs, while others cannot, especially now in post-pandemic America. The EPA backs up their statement that energy companies are voluntarily reducing methane emissions with their Methane Challenge Program. Partners of this program report systematic and comprehensive actions reducing methane emissions.
Since its start in 2016, the 68 Methane Challenge Program Partners voluntarily reduced methane emissions by over 5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. A full list of Partners can be found here.
It will be interesting to see if the proposed rescinding of restrictions will make it through interagency review.