WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced strong rules that will significantly reduce methane and volatile organic compound (VOC) pollution. Importantly, today’s announcement marks the first time in the U.S. that the EPA has addressed emissions from the sector’s existing sources nationwide, a group of sources that are responsible for the vast majority of the sector’s current and future methane and VOC emissions. As the oil and natural gas sector is the largest industrial emitter of methane domestically, addressing these sources is a critical step forward to drastically reduce U.S. methane emissions.
“Reducing methane and volatile organic compound emissions from the oil and gas sector is key to slowing global warming and protecting public health. We applaud the administration for its leadership and commitment to the Global Methane Pledge, and these standards serve as an example of how the U.S. is moving from commitments to action that will drive significant methane reductions,” said Jonathan Banks, Global Director of Methane Pollution Prevention at CATF. “Today’s announcement comes on the heels of the EU’s recent landmark Methane Regulation, which includes a first-of-its-kind methane import standard to address emissions from imported oil and gas. Given the urgency, we are encouraged to see bold climate action to address methane emissions a focus on the global stage.”
Today’s announcement [at the COP28 methane summit] firmly establishes the U.S. as a global leader in addressing methane emissions from the sector, a critical role given that the U.S. is the top global oil and gas producer.
“We need to drastically and quickly reduce methane emissions to avoid the worst effects of climate change, and today’s rule is major progress to keep us on the right track,” said Darin Schroeder, Methane Legal and Regulatory Director at CATF. “We applaud EPA and the administration for taking an important step in finalizing a rule that establishes strong, commonsense methane standards for the oil and gas sector, all of which can be met with tools and techniques already at the industry’s disposal. Today’s announcement will have immense climate and public health benefits – particularly for the communities living near oil and gas sites.”
Of note, the final rule requires operators of new oil wells to capture any co-produced natural gas instead of flaring it, protecting communities from the pollution associated with this wasteful process, after a phase-in period. In addition, the final rule requires quarterly leak detection and repair inspections at the facilities that are most prone to leaks, while also providing a pathway for utilization of advanced technologies and taking much needed action to address super-emitters. Additionally, the final rule requires pneumatic controllers to be zero-emitting in almost all circumstances.
Collectively, between 2024 and 2038, these and the rest of the standards are estimated by EPA to achieve reductions of 58 million tons of methane and 16 million tons of VOC reductions. The methane reductions over this 15-year period is the equivalent of over 21.8 million gasoline-powered cars taken off the road each year from a carbon dioxide perspective. The rule will also end up reducing nearly 600,000 tons of toxic air pollution over that same time frame.
Schroeder continued: “This final rule is a strong step forward and sends a signal to the rest of the world that the U.S. is serious about cutting its methane emissions. But this is simply the passing of the baton to the next stage of this race – we are by no means across the finish line. Now it’s time to implement and enforce the new methane standards. Today’s announcement has been a long time coming and we look forward to working with the administration and other stakeholders to ensure these standards are enforced to maximize climate and public health benefits.”
About Clean Air Task Force
Clean Air Task Force (CATF) is a global nonprofit organization working to safeguard against the worst impacts of climate change by catalyzing the rapid development and deployment of low-carbon energy and other climate-protecting technologies. With 25 years of internationally recognized expertise on climate policy and a fierce commitment to exploring all potential solutions, CATF is a pragmatic, non-ideological advocacy group with the bold ideas needed to address climate change. CATF has offices in Boston, Washington D.C., and Brussels, with staff working virtually around the world. Visit catf.us and follow @cleanaircatf.