EPA’s Proposed Methane Rules Under Fire

Published February 20, 2015

The Obama administration’s regulations proposed to cut methane emissions 45 percent by 2025 have sparked criticism from both industry sources and independent policy analysts. The White House says the new standards are necessary because methane “is a potent greenhouse gas, with 25 times the heat-trapping potential of carbon dioxide over a 100-year period.”

According to a White House statement, the Environmental Protection Agency is developing measures to mandate reduced methane emissions from “oil well completions, pneumatic pumps, and leaks from well sites, gathering and boosting stations, and compressor stations.”

Ironically, EPA’s clean power plant regulations will likely increase methane emissions by forcing utilities to switch from coal-fired power plants to natural-gas plants. A byproduct of the latter is methane, approximately 8 percent of which escapes into the atmosphere.

Producers on the Job

Alex Mills of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers Energy notes producers have significant economic incentives to cut emissions. Methane can be sold, and it is wasted if lost to the atmosphere. Without any government intervention, the industry has been making improvements for years.

Mills also notes the rule misses the real problem; even EPA admits cow flatulence is the biggest source of methane gas emissions.

Heartland Institute Research Fellow for Energy and Environment Policy Isaac Orr notes industry has already made substantial progress through voluntary cuts in emissions.

“If there is one thing this president excels at more than any other, it’s taking credit for things he had nothing to do with. The latest rules under consideration by the administration to regulate the amount of methane emitted from oil and natural gas production is just the latest in this ongoing saga,” Orr said.

“The administration has announced it wants to cut methane emissions from oil and gas operations by 40‒45 percent by 2025 from the 2012 levels, but methane emissions from natural gas systems have already fallen, by 14.3 percent between 2008 and 2012, and emissions from natural gas hydraulic fracturing operations fell by 73 percent between 2011 and 2013,” he added.

‘Expensive and Ineffective’

Also critical of Obama’s plan is Tom Pyle of the Institute for Energy Research. “In 2012 President Obama dismissed and mocked the notion we could drill our way to lower oil and gasoline prices. He was wrong. Thanks to increases in oil production on private and state lands, Americans are feeling some relief from high energy prices. Today, this administration has issued yet another crushing regulation aimed at driving energy prices right back up again,” Pyle said.

Orr describes Obama’s plan as half-baked at best. “The administration did not provide a cost assessment for the new rules, but if the previous rules intended to combat climate change are any indication, they will be expensive and not very effective,” he said.

“Sadly, ‘expensive and ineffective’ will likely be this president’s legacy, and my generation—the millennials—and our children will be the ones who are around to suffer the consequences,” Orr added.

Brian Maloney ([email protected]) is a longtime political analyst and editor-in-chief of The Media Equalizer.