The EPA this week published a “proposed framework” for a new voluntary program for the oil and gas sector to reduce methane emissions – the “Natural Gas STAR Methane Challenge Program.” It is part of the administration’s continuing effort to reduce emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. The proposal can be found here.
I’m no expert on air emissions standards. As a citizen reading the proposal, I was struck by the increasing intensity of efforts to address emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds in the oil and gas sector.
In 1993, EPA created its Natural Gas STAR Program, a voluntary program in which oil and gas companies could commit to identify opportunities in their companies to reduce methane emissions and report on their progress. According to the EPA, Gas STAR partner companies have reported methane emission reductions of more than one trillion cubic feet through 2013.
In 2012, the EPA issued New Source Performance Standards for the oil and gas industry to achieve reductions in methane and VOC emissions.
In March 2014, the administration release its Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions as part of its Climate Action Plan.
In 2014, the industry founded the One Future program, in which member companies make commitments to achieve methane emission targets.
A good summary of EPA efforts related to methane emissions can be seen here.
In the EPA’s new Methane Challenge, participating companies would enter into a memorandum of understanding with EPA committing to specific emission reduction goals and a plan to achieve those goals, and would commit to annual reporting on their progress.
EPA is asking for comments on its proposed framework.
I have had increasing complaints and concerns voiced by clients about air emissions from oil and gas production facilities. Landowners are more frequently demanding that their lessees take steps to limit emissions and capture gas for sale that is being vented or flared. The Environmental Defense Fund has begun a series of studies to identify methane emission sources and available technology to reduce methane emissions. If the industry wants to tout natural gas as more environmentally friendly than coal, it would do well to take steps to reduce its emissions.