Methane Regulation and Risking Emissions Progress
Posted May 12, 2016
Before getting into EPA’s new methane emissions regulations, let’s start with a chart:
Both lines above reflect EPA data that show reduced emissions of methane from field production of natural gas since 2005. (There are two lines because EPA used two different methodologies in its 2015 and 2016 inventories of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.) The fundamental point, illustrated by both, is the reality of significant reductions in methane emissions.
Indeed, EPA’s 2015 inventory of greenhouse gas emissions showed a 50 percent emissions decline. We contend that the 2015 inventory is more accurate than the 2016 version for reasons discussed in this post. Even so, the flawed 2016 inventory still shows a 7 percent decline just from 2013 to 2014. We’ll say it again: Methane emissions are falling. And they’ll continue doing so because industry wants to capture as much of the primary component of natural gas as possible, for delivery to consumers.
So that’s the context for EPA’s regulatory initiative. Basically, the agency looked at the energy landscape – one of surging production but also declining emissions – and determined the next step should be more regulation. The resulting new rules could hinder America’s shale energy revolution, one that has helped lower U.S. energy-related carbon emissions 12 percent below 2005 levels, allowing the United States to lead the world in reducing carbon emissions.
Kyle Isakower, API vice president of regulatory and economic policy, and Howard Feldman, senior director for science and regulatory affairs, discussed EPA’s new methane regulation during a conference call with reporters. Isakower:
“The industry is already leading the way on methane reductions because it is good for the environment and good for business. Even as oil and natural gas production has risen dramatically, methane emissions have fallen, thanks to industry leadership and investment in new technologies. It doesn’t make sense that the administration would add unreasonable and overly burdensome regulations when the industry is already leading the way in reducing emissions.”
Isakower said the move could impact benefits provided by increased domestic energy production, which last year included lowering consumer costs by more than $550 at the pump while adding $1,337 in disposable income per household.
Though EPA contends the new methane rule will be cost effective, Isakower said industry estimates that costs could be about twice as high as the agency projected in its draft rule. Feldman said new, potentially costly regulation isn’t needed to continue reducing methane emissions:
“When people are actually doing measurements what they have found is that if you go to a certain facility or a certain well and you do your measurements there you might find some leaks there. And then the companies of course, tighten those leaks because, as we’ve always emphasized, methane is the product that we sell. We are incentivized already to reduce methane emissions. … The companies have the best sense of how often they need to do that sampling. And that’s why if you put in a one-size-fits-all approach, which EPA is putting in place, that is not cost-effective to reduce emissions.”
Isakower said EPA’s regulatory thrust could be counterproductive if it negative impacts the development and use of clean-burning natural gas that is at the heart of U.S. climate progress:
“Natural gas is a proven source of clean, affordable, and reliable energy. The development and use of natural gas from shale has helped the U.S. lead the world in cutting power sector carbon emissions, which are near 20-year lows. The last thing we need is more duplicative and costly regulation that could discourage natural gas production, disrupt our progress reducing emissions, and increase the cost of energy for American consumers.”
About The Author
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela have two grown children and six grandchildren.
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