EPA Announces First-Ever Methane Regulations

| by Sean Kelly

The Obama administration announced its first-ever regulations on methane emissions earlier this week.

The Environmental Protection Agency will propose standards this summer that will regulate the greenhouse gas directly from industrial sources. The EPA reportedly plans to cut methane emissions by 40 to 45 percent by 2025. The newly announced regulations are a first step in the broader effort to reach 45 percent by the target date. According to The Hill, the regulations “target methane from new and modified oil and gas wells and equipment responsible for venting and flaring on public lands.”

Experts expressed concerns over the goal percentage, saying that while it is a step in the right direction it may not be high enough. “When we look at timing of emissions and are counting methane against carbon dioxide it may be on the lower end of what’s needed,” MIT Assistant Professor Jessica Trancik said of the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2025.

Environmentalists were also critical of the regulations, arguing that the administration is not regulating existing sources. “The administration is proposing to fight methane pollution with one hand tied behind its back, not using the full range of powers under the Clean Air Act to cut these emissions,” Clean Air Task Force Advocacy Director Conrad Schneider said.

Former EPA Director of Climate Change Dina Kruger, who served both Bush administrations, said that the regulations should not be underestimated.“By deciding to regulate methane directly, even if only new sources at this time, EPA has set the stage to reduce more in the future,” Kruger said.

With Obama set to leave office in 2016, the responsibility to regulate will fall on his successor. Kruger acknowledged that a Republican with potentially different views on climate change could affect future regulations, but maintained that there would be too much pressure on the next president for them to completely turn their back on the climate change issue.

“Yes, they are leaving it in a situation where such diametrically different perspectives on climate change could determine whether and how something happens next,” Kruger said. “But the next president can’t completely turn his back on it without suffering other consequences as a result. There is a fair amount of pressure to do something on climate change from the international community.”

Sources: The Hill, Wall Street Journal / Photo Credit: thehill.com