Following the EPA’s Clean Power Plan last August to curtail green house gas emissions from power plants, on May 10 the EPA issued the first ever standards to curb methane emissions from existing oil and gas operations including fracking. According to the EPA, methane (CH4) accounts for 10 pct of all GHG emissions from human activities and lasts in the atmosphere for a shorter time than CO2, but it’s effect on climate change is 25 times greater than CO2 over a period of 100 years.
Designed to reduce CH4 emissions to between 40 and 45 pct less than the 2012 levels, the final regulations are issued after 50,000 comments on the initial proposals last summer. During that time the EPA revised upwards the inventory of total CH4 emissions in 2013 from 636 million metric tons to 721 million metric tons CO2 equivalent, and a total of 731 million metric tons in 2014. In justifying the final standards the EPA estimates that climate benefits will amount to $690 million in 2025 and will outweigh the estimated costs of $530 million in 2025.
The CH4 emission standards now adopted by the EPA only pertain to new oil and gas operations – production, transmission, storage, and distribution. However, on March 10 EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy wrote on March 10 that her agency has begun to develop standards for CH4 emissions from existing facilities.
In a connection of concern to climate activists, the new assessment of the amounts of methane emitted from fracking now undermines the notion that we can shift from coal to natural gas for electric power generation as a bridge to a clean energy future, without having a negative impact on public health and climate change.
Finally, in a May 12 press release Sierra Club Exec. Dir. Michael Brune stated:
“We applaud today’s announcement by the EPA and the Obama Administration, which will help protect communities around the country from dangerous methane pollution from future oil and gas development. In taking this important first step, the EPA and the Obama Administration are rejecting the status quo that has allowed the oil and gas industry to recklessly pollute communities around the country for so long.
“EPA’s methane standards for new and modified oil and gas sources are a critical step in addressing climate change. We will remain steadfast in our efforts urging EPA to move expeditiously on its commitment to address existing sources of this highly potent greenhouse gas–which will continue to be responsible for the vast majority of this pollutant–and is essential in meeting the Paris climate agreement.
“Yet, if we are to truly safeguard our communities, our health, and our climate from the dangers of fossil fuel pollution, we must keep dirty fuels in the ground and transition to clean, renewable energy like solar and wind power.”
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