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EPA to develop regulations for methane emissions from existing oil and gas wells; ICR coming in April
10 March 2016
The US EPA will begin developing regulations for methane emissions from existing oil and gas sources—e.g., oil and gas wells. The agency announced plans to cut methane emissions from new oil and gas wells last year. (Earlier post.)
The expanded regulatory scope comes in support of the newly announced commitment by President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to new actions to reduce methane emissions from the oil and natural gas sector, the largest industrial source of methane.
The US currently has a goal of cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45% below 2012 levels by 2025. EPA has already tacken actions to limit methane emissions. In addition to last year’s proposal to limit methane emissions from new and modified sources in the oil and gas sector, in 2012 EPA set emissions standards for fractured and re-fractured natural gas wells.
However, new data gathered by EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, as well as with studies by different groups of researchers, suggest that methane emissions are substantially higher than previously understood. Hence, EPA’s coming proposed expansion of regulations to all existing wells.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said that the agency will begin by issuing an Information Collection Request (ICR) to gather information on existing sources of methane emissions; technologies to reduce those emissions; and the costs of those technologies in the production, gathering, processing, and transmission and storage segments of the oil and gas sector.
This is a standard step in the development process for regulations to reduce air pollution.
There are hundreds of thousands of existing oil and gas sources across our country; some emit small amounts of methane, while others emit a lot. The Information Collection Request will help EPA identify, among other things, which existing sources are big emitters and how they can be effectively controlled. EPA will begin preliminary outreach to states, industry, environmental groups, communities and other organizations in the coming weeks and will launch the formal information collection process in April. This engagement will give us the opportunity to hear feedback from the public on our plans.—Gina McCarthy