Latest: EPA finalizes rules to reduce methane leakage

The rules target new oil and gas infrastructure.

  • Gas flaring, which produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions, such as methane, than just releasing the natural gas, near the Pawnee Grassland in Colorado.

    WildEarth Guardians

Last August, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first-ever rule targeting methane leaks from oil and gas infrastructure. Environmentalists lauded its potential to keep the greenhouse gas, which is 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide, out of the atmosphere. Yet the rule had flaws: It did not apply to existing wells and facilities, or to low-producing wells, and therefore did little to address methane plumes emanating from areas with a history of production, such as the hot spot over the Four Corners region  (“Unlocking the Methane Mystery,” HCN, 8/31/2015).

On May 12, the EPA finalized the rule, nixing the exemption for low-producing wells, increasing the frequency of leak detection and otherwise tightening up last year’s proposal. The new regulations should keep some 11 million tons of methane out of the air by 2025, and also lay the groundwork for extending regulation to existing wells and infrastructure.

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