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New Federal Bill Targets Methane Gas Leaks

Nearly $2 billion worth of methane gas is lost each year through flaring and leaks at oil- and gas-well sites in the United States. (Tim Evanson/Flickr)
Nearly $2 billion worth of methane gas is lost each year through flaring and leaks at oil- and gas-well sites in the United States. (Tim Evanson/Flickr)
May 15, 2019

COLUMBUS, Ohio - New federal legislation could help Ohio in its efforts to reduce methane gas leaks from natural-gas facilities.

Methane is considered one of the most potent greenhouse gases, and nearly $2 billion worth of methane is lost each year at oil and gas well sites across the country.

The Methane Waste Prevention Act of 2019, introduced Tuesday by Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado, would direct the Environmental Protection Agency to keep 2016 methane rules in place for new and updated oil and gas facilities, which Isaac Brown, executive director of the Center for Methane Emission Solutions, said could be beneficial for states like Ohio that already have rules requiring gas-leak detection and repair requirements.

"While some states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania are taking a leadership role and acting to cut emissions, other energy producing states have failed to do so," he said, "and so that’s why having federal leadership and federal rules is so important because we essentially need to set a floor and limit emissions and emission waste nationwide."

The bill instructs the U.S. Interior Department to reinstate and update protections to reduce methane leaks, venting, and flaring of natural gas from public lands. It also would block an EPA proposal to roll back the 2016 methane standards.

Brown contended it's possible to have strong methane rules and a healthy, more responsible energy industry.

"In fact methane regulation will lead to more natural gas production because more methane is being captured," he said. "Also we know from experience that methane rules have zero impact on oil production because methane rules are cost-effective. We can eliminate methane emissions nationally by 50 percent at no net cost to industry."

Brown noted that Ohio's methane standards are widely supported by environmental, labor and public health groups, as well as many elected leaders.

"One of the things we're seeing in states like Ohio is, this is not a partisan issue," he said. "Governors on both sides of the aisle are recognizing that we need to do something about methane emissions, but that it's also important that methane is regulated in a manner that is cost-effective."

Ohio is part of the Utica and Marcellus shale region, which is expected to supply nearly half of all U.S. natural gas by 2040. More than a dozen methane-mitigation companies in the state produce and install leak-reduction technologies.

The bill's text is online at naturalresources.house.gov.

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH