Sustained Outrage

EPA set to announce new methane regulations

Natural Gas, fracking

Word is out that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will propose later today new rules aimed at reducing methane emissions from the nation’s booming natural gas industry.

UPDATED: Here’s our Gazette-Mail story on the EPA announcement:

The Obama administration is proposing new standards that are part of a broader strategy to require the nation’s booming oil and gas industry to reduce its emissions of heat-trapping methane by 40 percent to 45 percent.

The New York Times reports:

The Obama administration is expected to propose as soon as Tuesday the first-ever federal regulation to cut emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, by the nation’s oil and natural-gas industry, officials familiar with the plan said on Monday.

The proposed rule would call for the reduction of methane emissions by 40 to 45 percent over the next decade from 2012 levels, the officials said. The proposal was widely expected, after the Environmental Protection Agency said in January that it was working on such a plan.

According to The Wall Street Journal:

The move is part of a broader regulatory agenda Mr. Obama is pursuing as he seeks to make addressing climate change a legacy of his time in the White House. Earlier this month, the EPA issued final rules cutting carbon emissions from power plants 32% by 2030 based on emissions levels from 2005.

Tuesday’s announcement reflects the Obama administration’s middle-ground approach toward the oil and gas industry. The Interior Department said Monday it has issued a permit to Royal Dutch Shell PLC to drill for oil and natural gas in the Arctic Ocean, providing the company a long-sought victory and angering environmentalists who say the move runs counter to Mr. Obama’s efforts to address climate change.

Meanwhile, with the onset of the fracking boom, concerns over methane, a potent greenhouse gas, have grown within the administration. Methane has a warming effect on the planet more than 20 times greater than carbon dioxide, according to the EPA.

We’ve talked about this issue many times before on this blog (see here, here, here, here and here), most recently here.

Also today, there’s a new study out on the issue, being reported by the Times this way:

A little-noted portion of the chain of pipelines and equipment that brings natural gas from the field into power plants and homes is responsible for a surprising amount of methane emissions, according to a new study.

Natural-gas gathering facilities, which collect from multiple wells, lose about 100 billion cubic feet of natural gas a year, about eight times as much as estimates used by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to the study, which appeared on Tuesday in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

The newly discovered leaks, if counted in the E.P.A. inventory, would increase its entire systemwide estimate by about 25 percent, said the Environmental Defense Fund, which sponsored the research as part of methane emissions studies it organized.

EPA is planning to announce its new rules at noon …