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EPA Proposes Rolling Back Methane Rule

The oil and gas industry is the largest industrial source of methane pollution in the United States. (olafpictures/pixabay)
The oil and gas industry is the largest industrial source of methane pollution in the United States. (olafpictures/pixabay)
September 12, 2018

PHILADELPHIA – Clean-air advocates are vowing to fight the latest proposal to roll back regulations on methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.

Acting Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler wants to reduce the frequency of monitoring for methane leaks at oil and gas facilities that is required under the 2016 New Source Performance Standards.

But according to Robert Routh, staff attorney with the Clean Air Council, that change would allow leaks to go undetected, and without being repaired, for longer periods of time.

"It will mean increased air pollution and, as a result, increased health impacts and environmental impacts for people across the country," said Routh.

The EPA, which refers to the change as a "targeted improvements package", claims it would save the oil and gas industry $485 million in regulatory costs.

Matt Watson, associate vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund's Energy Program, explained that methane is a greenhouse gas that, over 20 years, is more than 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at capturing heat.

Watson added the nation is already are experiencing its impact on the climate.

"It's wildfires in the West and storms in the Gulf, and a quarter of that is coming from methane," said Watson, "and the oil and gas industry is the largest industrial source of that methane in the U.S."

He pointed out that stopping leaks is also cost effective because methane is the main component of natural gas, which the industry sells.

Last year, a federal court ruled that an attempt by former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to stay implementation of the same standards was "arbitrary and capricious." Routh vowed that this latest attempt to roll back part of the standard will not go unchallenged.

"There are always potential avenues to challenge agency actions like this, and it will depend on the justification the EPA is citing to determine what possible legal challenges may be brought," he said.

The proposal is subject to a 60-day public comment period and the EPA will hold a public hearing in Denver, Colo., before the change would go into effect.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA