New Limits on Methane a Vital First Step to Protect Climate—But We Need Broader Standards

Statement by David Babson, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Apr 29, 2016

WASHINGTON (May 12, 2016)—The EPA has issued a final rule to set the first-ever standards for methane emissions from new and modified sources in the oil and gas sector. While this is an important step forward in fighting global warming, we urgently need strong standards that limit methane emissions from all oil and gas sector sources, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by David Babson, Senior Engineer at UCS.

“Methane is one of the most potent and dangerous global warming pollutants and the data show U.S. methane emissions are growing. If we’re going to limit the worst effects of climate change, we can’t allow methane to enter the atmosphere unchecked. EPA’s New Source Performance Standards issued today, which would apply to new and modified oil and gas operations, are a valuable first step, but we also need similar performance standards for all sources.

“We don’t know nearly enough about how much methane is being emitted from the extraction, processing, and storage of oil and gas—but the latest research shows it’s far higher than we previously thought.

”Even as we’re learning more about methane and its disastrous effects on the climate, we’re getting more of our oil and gas than ever from high-methane production methods. There are proven, low-cost ways to reduce methane pollution from oil and gas production, and we need to make sure they are used. It’s common sense.

The Obama Administration has set a goal of reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025, and, together with Canada, recently pledged to address emissions from all sources including existing sources. “Oil and gas companies need to be held accountable for the emissions caused by their expanding activity. They need to track and disclose their emissions and take steps to reduce them. And we must bring our regulations up to date to reflect the danger uncontrolled methane emissions pose to our climate. This rule is a step in the right direction but we need to also cap emissions from existing sources. We are also encouraged to see an information collection request from industry on existing sources of methane pollution. This is a key first step, and a sign that the EPA takes this issue seriously and wants to ensure that they appropriately regulate emissions from existing sources. Strong follow-through will be vital to make sure that oil and gas producers account for all of their methane emissions.”