Following President Obama’s promise to cut toxic methane leaks at oil and gas facilities, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday announced the U.S. government’s “first-ever” set of standards to reduce such emissions—but the new regulations were decried by environmentalist critics as not far-reaching enough.
“This rule, which does nothing to stop dangerous methane leaks from existing fracking wells, was always wholly inadequate.”
—May Boeve, 350.org”EPA’s methane regulations are a welcome first step, but contain too many loopholes to be a comprehensive check on industry recklessness,” warned Greenpeace researcher Charlie Cray.
Moreover, noted Cray, methane “is the fastest growing source of climate pollution in the U.S. In the first twenty years after it’s released, methane is more than 85 times more powerful than CO2 in fueling climate chaos.”
Oil and gas facilities are “the largest industrial source of methane,” noted environmental legal defense group Earthjustice.
The EPA said that these latest rules were part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to live up to the president’s vow to reduce methane emissions by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025.
“The methane rule is the final version of a draft regulation put forth last year by the Environmental Protection Agency,” reports the New York Times, “and would require oil and gas companies to plug and capture leaks of methane from new and modified drilling wells and storage tanks, not older, existing wells.”
The EPA is only just starting the information-gathering process to determine how to regulate existing wells, the agency says. Yet it is old, established fossil fuel infrastructure that is responsible for the vast majority of methane emissions in the U.S., and many environmentalists are irked that the new rules stop short of regulating those facilities.
“The only way to protect our communities from the risks of fracking, and stave off the worst impacts of climate change, is to keep fossil fuels in the ground. This rule, which does nothing to stop dangerous methane leaks from existing fracking wells, was always wholly inadequate,” said 350.org’s executive director May Boeve.
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“The vast majority of the problem lies in the oil and gas infrastructure that already exists across the country,” wrote the Natural Resources Defense Council. “EPA must follow through on the President’s commitment to address these sources next, and soon.”
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