EPA, Smarter Regulation and Lowering Emissions
Posted September 13, 2018
Let’s push back against a narrative springing up around EPA’s proposed improvements to the 2016 standards on emissions from new natural gas and oil production sources – which the agency says will streamline implementation, reduce duplication with state requirements and decrease unnecessary burdens on domestic energy producers.
First, while API reviews EPA’s proposal, it’s important to note that it appears the rule will continue to protect public health and reduce emissions through standards that are smarter, science-based and that promote greater cost-effectiveness – while industry keeps on delivering the energy Americans use every day.
Howard Feldman, API senior director of regulatory and scientific affairs, said the proposed changes could ensure the rule is cost-effective, achievable and targets emissions of volatile organic compounds that, as a co-benefit, reduces methane – the goal of industry and government alike. Feldman:
“Industry will continue to develop and employ the most efficient and effective technologies to help these trends continue, while working with academia and state and federal governments to achieve comprehensive, science-based best practices and regulations.”
Now, as for the narrative mentioned above, a sampling:
- EPA is making it “easier for energy companies to release methane into the atmosphere” (New York Times)
- The proposal is part of a broader “assault” on federal regulations (Bloomberg)
- The improvements are an effort to “dumb down the rule” (Environmental Defense Fund)
The narrative is based on a mythology that natural gas and oil companies don’t care about emissions and won’t develop new technologies and innovations to capture more and more emissions unless Washington makes them do it.
False and false.
Our companies are in business to find natural gas and provide it to consumers. Since methane is the key constituent of natural gas, companies are highly motivated to capture as much of it as possible to bring to those customers, and they are constantly developing the technologies to do it.
With success. Methane emissions from natural gas production are down 14 percent since 1990, while natural gas output has increased more than 50 percent.
Natural gas and oil companies also are highly motivated to reduce emissions because it’s important to the quality of the air we all breathe and because it advances climate solutions. A growing number of companies are joining The Environmental Partnership, pledging specific actions to reduce emissions from production, as well as learning from and collaborating with each other toward that goal.
Contrary to the narrative above, industry initiative – and not government mandates – is driving emissions reductions.
Again, we see EPA working to develop smarter regulation that reflects current technologies and industry’s best practices – and that recognizes layers of duplicative regulation aren’t necessary.
We also see EPA acknowledging industry’s investments and hard work toward reducing emissions. Suggesting, as some have, that emissions reduction progress will be reversed because there would be one federally required leak survey per year instead of two is ridiculously simplistic and outdated. The fact is operators are on site regularly throughout the year, monitoring operations to maximize production and minimize emissions – again, because gathering natural gas is their job. Regulators should strive to provide flexibility, and EPA’s proposal accomplishes this by allowing operators to maximize emissions reductions in the most efficient manner.
Data confirms industry’s commitments and efforts are working. We need modern, cost-effective regulation that is attainable and that also allows responsible natural gas and oil production. It looks like EPA has taken an important step in that direction.
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.