EPA proposes measures to dramatically reduce methane emissions in the US

The US Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday proposed a slate of measures meant to drastically reduce methane emissions over the next decade as part of the Obama administration’s broad effort to reduce greenhouse gasses.

Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for the EPA’s office of air and radiation, told reporters that the agency hopes to cut heat-trapping methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.

“Together, these actions set a course for responsible development of this valuable and abundant domestic resource,” McCabe said. “They will help reduce waste of valuable resources, deliver more product for sale and they will better protect our climate and health.”

The EPA unveiled four proposals meant to reduce emissions by updating existing industry regulations, clarifying existing rules and drafting guidelines to reduce volatile organic compound emissions (VOCs).

According to the agency, the proposals would reduce 340,000 to 400,000 short (US) tons of methane in 2025. It is crucial for these emissions to be reduced if theObama administration hopes to achieve its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 26% to 28% by 2025.

Environmental groups commended the decision and said they hoped it would move the government closer to addressing emissions from already-existing infrastructure, which accounts for the majority of pollution.

“Meaningful progress in combating this potent climate pollutant will require an industry wide cleanup – from infrastructure new and old, nationwide,” Meleah Geertsma, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. “We are hopeful today’s announcement is just the beginning.”

The White House said in January 2014 that it would reduce methane pollution by 40 to 45% by 2025. And earlier this month, Obama unveiled a sweeping plan to reduce carbon emissions.

“The Obama administration deserves great credit for delivering on its pledge earlier this year to propose standards for new and modified sources of methane pollution from the oil and gas industry,” Conrad Schneider, Clean Air Task Force’s advocacy director, said in a statement.

Methane is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas, accounting for about 10% of emissions, according to the EPA. The White House said that of those emissions, nearly 30% come from the oil and gas industry.

US oil lobby the American Petroleum Institute, said that the proposed regulations are unnecessary to curb emissions, arguing that the plan would undermine “American competitiveness”.

“The last thing we need is more duplicative and costly regulation that could increase the cost of energy for Americans,” API president and CEO Jack Gerard said in a statement.

EPA methane emissions

 The proposals would reduce 340,000 to 400,000 short (US) tons of methane in 2025. Photograph: Richard Hamilton Smith/Corbis

Excerpted from http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/aug/18/epa-measures-reduce-methane-emissions