Rein in methane: The EPA rules are needed to cut greenhouse gases

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Editorial

By The Editorial Board

September 9, 2015

Coal producers recoiled last month after the Environmental Protection Agency announced rules that will reduce climate-warming carbon emissions over the next decade and lower the nation’s dependence on coal. Now the oil and gas lobby is raising a fuss over the next critical component of the Obama administration’s climate change strategy: a plan that will reduce emissions of the greenhouse gas methane.

Methane accounts for the second-largest share of climate-warming emissions in the world after carbon but has 25 times its potency. The new rules will reduce methane emissions by 20 to 30 percent by 2025, administration officials say, by requiring oil and natural gas producers to find and repair leaks from new or revamped wells.

These reductions will fit into the White House’s strategy of reducing methane pollution by 40 to 45 percent within the next decade. The rules won’t affect existing drilling infrastructure, which environmental advocates say don’t go far enough.

Oil and gas producers — including their lobbies in Pennsylvania — have condemned the rules, claiming they’d be too costly, would kill jobs and would inflate Americans’ energy costs. The EPA estimates making the changes will cost energy producers about $420 million over 10 years but will generate up to $550 million in savings because of the reduction in methane losses.

The policies have particular salience in Pennsylvania, where much of the nation’s fracking boom has been concentrated.

In the coming months, the methane rules, along with the EPA’s rules on power plant emissions, will be challenged in protracted legal battles. Energy lobbies’ short-term profit cannot come before America’s long-term economic and security interests. In that regard, the industry cannot be trusted to govern itself.

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