A statement follows from Meleah Geertsma, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council:
“Curbing the oil and gas industry’s rampant methane pollution problem is the next biggest thing the White House can do to fight climate change after addressing carbon pollution from power plants.
“Reducing emissions from new oil and gas operations is an important first step. The largest source of this pollution, however, is the oil and gas infrastructure that already exists across the country. That must be addressed next.
“Meaningful progress in combating this potent climate pollutant will require an industrywide cleanup—from infrastructure new and old, nationwide. We are hopeful today’s announcement is just the beginning.”
In addition to issuing standards for methane pollution from new oil and gas operations, EPA today proposed standards to regulate other air pollutants (smog-forming “volatile organic compounds, or VOCs) from a limited amount of existing oil and gas operations. These VOC rules will help curb methane leakage from that existing infrastructure at the same time, in these limited places.
These standards begin to address methane pollution from the oil and gas sector, the second largest industrial source of climate-changing pollution after power plants. More comprehensive rules for existing oil and gas infrastructure nationwide will be necessary to meet the White House’s goal of cutting methane pollution from the oil and gas industry 40-45 percent by 2025.
The oil and gas sector is the largest U.S. industrial emitter of methane, which is the second-biggest driver of climate change after carbon dioxide. Smog-forming and toxic chemicals—including VOCs—that leak from oil and gas sites along with methane also harm air quality, endangering the health of people in neighboring communities.
Most of the industry’s methane pollution comes from leaks and intentional venting that can be identified and curbed with existing, low-cost technology and better maintenance practices. NRDC and others released a report last fall that shows how EPA can cut methane pollution in half, while dramatically reducing other harmful air pollution at the same time, by issuing federal standards for new and existing infrastructure nationwide.