Statement on EPA Methane Rule

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on August 18 proposed the first federal regulations requiring the nation’s oil and gas industry to cut emissions of methane as part of an expanding effort to combat climate change. The Agency aims to reduce methane emissions by about 45 percent by 2025 from agriculture, landfills, and oil and gas activities combined.

The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation supports the emerging regulatory, industry, and academic efforts to reduce the negative environmental and community risks from oil and gas development. In particular, the foundation seeks to ensure that the energy, environmental, health and economic benefits of natural gas for electricity generation are captured. A critical element in achieving this goal is minimizing leakage of methane.

The oil and gas industry has made important progress in cutting emissions of methane already. Methane emissions in 2013 were 12 percent lower than in 2011. Almost 75 percent of these reductions are a direct result of EPA’s “green completions” methane regulations established in 2012. Voluntary programs led by innovative companies also play an important role in demonstrating cost-effective methane control technologies. Voluntary programs are another element in EPA’s overall methane strategy.

While some industry leaders are already implementing aspects of the proposed rules, the number of oil and gas companies that aggressively control their methane emissions must increase. The proposed rules, when finalized, will play a critical role in diffusing voluntary efforts and innovative technologies throughout the oil and gas industry. Existing regulations and voluntary programs show that methane emissions can be dramatically reduced with targeted, economically-efficient programs and technologies. Since methane that is captured is a valuable product, it is possible for the reduction measures required by the rule to be low cost or even a net positive.

The EPA sought input from states, industry, and environmental interests to develop the draft rule. For example, the Mitchell Foundation hosted a series of meetings between EPA and Texas regulatory and industry leaders to facilitate communication in the design of the draft rule.

This prudent regulatory strategy that emphasizes and expands existing cost-effective programs and is based on extensive stakeholder involvement is a critical step in protecting health and the environment.

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The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation works as an engine of change in both policy and practice in Texas, supporting high-impact projects at the nexus of environmental protection, social equity, and economic vibrancy. For additional information, visit www.CGMF.org or follow the foundation on Twitter @MitchFound.

Contact: Brett Holmes, bholmes@cgmf.org, (713) 244-4178

 

 

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