Update: Delay and Reconsideration of Oil and Gas Methane Rule

The Trump EPA has proposed to delay and is reconsidering key elements of standards to cut methane, smog-forming pollutants, and toxic air pollution from new, reconstructed and modified facilities in the oil and gas sector.  Administrator Scott Pruitt on February 23, 2018, signed a notice amending two provisions addressing fugitive emissions requirements in the 2016 rule in response to comments on the proposed stays.  As of March 1, the agency continued to consider the proposed delays; for updates see the agency's web page.  The Fall 2017 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions calls for a proposed rule on reconsideration of the standards in August 2018, and a final rule in September 2019.

Delay of EPA's Methane Rule for the Oil and Gas Sector

Public Comment Closed on August 9, 2017

hree-month stay https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OAR-2017-0346-0001

Two-year stay https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OAR-2010-0505-7736

What’s at Risk, Talking Points, and What You Can Do

EPA's Methane Standards

The standards at risk would control methane emissions and some related toxic air pollutants.  EPA finalized these requirements in May 2016. 

This final rule is designed to achieve significant reductions in methane emissions from new, reconstructed and modified processes and equipment used in oil and natural gas extraction and production.  (For regulatory geeks: the rule applies to well site pneumatic pump standards; fugitive emissions; and requires that closed vent systems be certified by a professional engineer.)

The rule will also reduce smog-forming and toxic emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from sources such as fracking (hydraulically fractured oil wells) that were not covered by earlier standards. 

The oil and gas industry could meet these emission limits using pollution control technologies that are cost-effective and readily available.  Prior to adopting this rule, EPA considered more than 900,000 public comments and held three public hearings.

Trump Administration Delay Proposal

The methane and toxics air quality standard is a final regulation. This means that EPA and the States should start requiring oil and gas companies to begin installing pollution control equipment to control methane emissions now.  However, EPA is proposing to “stay“ (i.e. not implement) these pollution control requirements while the Agency re-writes the rule. For procedural reasons, two proposals are open for comment: a two-year stay, and a three-month stay.   During these stays, the agency plans to re-write the rule to make methane emission limits less protective.

Update: On July 31, the full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered EPA to resume enforcing its methane rule for new oil and gas wells, "...a potentially temporary but important loss for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's deregulatory agenda." (From Politico Pro.)

Suggested Talking Points

Methane is a dangerous air pollutant, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change and ground-level ozone. To slow climate change sooner rather than later, it’s important to control methane now, especially because its global warming potential is more than 25 times that of carbon dioxide.1 Methane is also a component in smog, which causes asthma and other severe health effects.

The oil and gas industry is a significant source of emissions of methane and associated VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Methane leaks are expensive.2  Fixing methane and VOC leaks is not expensive.3

Efforts to cut methane waste create jobs.  American entrepreneurs are creating innovative, cutting-edge technologies which make it economically feasible for the oil and gas companies capture methane emissions.4

EPA finalized a rule to control methane and VOC emissions from the oil and gas sector after extensive analysis and public process. The pollution control technologies required by this rule are cost effective and readily available. EPA should not re-write this rule to make it less protective of public health and our atmosphere.

EPA should not “stay” implementation of this rule for two years.  EPA and the States should immediately begin requiring that companies in the oil and gas sector begin installing pollution control equipment to control methane and VOC emissions. Delaying the rule will result in more climate-changing emissions, more smog and more wasted energy.  Estimated benefits of the oil and gas methane rule significantly exceed the estimated costs.  Delay would mean the public gives up those benefits in the meantime.5

It is irresponsible for the Trump Administration to delay pollution reductions that we need now while they figure out what to do next.

What You Can Do

It would be great if well-reasoned, fact-based comments were enough to win the day, but in today’s deregulatory environment, raising the political stakes of regulatory rollbacks is crucial to stopping or slowing them down.  Submitting comments is a good first step.  For rules that are particularly important to you, please consider taking one or more of the following steps, too.

  • Write to your members of Congress and other elected officials.  Let them know your concerns and ask them to weigh in with the agency proposing the rollback.
  • Write letters to the editor and even op-eds in your local papers.
  • Organize or participate in letter-writing campaigns.
  • Join or organize demonstrations.
  • Talk to your friends, colleagues and neighbors and encourage them to comment and otherwise join in this effort.  Voicing your concerns on social media can be a very effective way to spread the word.

Links for more information

Environmental Defense Fund web page: Defending standards to cut methane waste –  https://www.edf.org/energy/defending-standards-cut-methane-waste

Earthjustice web page: Eveything you need to know about methane --  http://earthjustice.org/features/everything-you-need-to-know-about-methane

Environmental Protection Agency web page: Controlling air pollution from the oil and natural gas industry -- https://www.epa.gov/controlling-air-pollution-oil-and-natural-gas-industry

Environmental Protection Agency fact sheet, May 12, 2016: “EPA’s Actions to Reduce Methane Emissions from the Oil and Natural Gas Industry: Final Rules and Draft Information Collection Request,” -- https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/nsps-overview-fs.pdf



1 Los Angeles Times, “Opinion: Methane is a 'super pollutant' that the federal government must help keep out of our air,” March 2, 2017.  

2 Total methane emissions across the oil and gas sector are said to be worth $1.8 billion. Datu Research, The Emerging U.S. Methane Mitigation Industry, October 2014.  Based on EPA’s 2014 emissions inventory of 7.7m metric tons, multiplied by the 12-month average Henry Hub gas price from August 2013-September 2014 per the EIA of $4.38/mcf.

3 In a survey done in Colorado gauging the industry’s reaction to that state’s methane rule, most -- seven in ten -- thought the benefits outweighed the costs and only one in ten thought that the cost was a lot more than the benefit to the company.  Memo from Chris Keating, Keating Research, for the Center for Methane Emissions Solutions, The Colorado Case Study on Methane Emissions: Conversations with the Oil and Gas Industry, April 10, 2016. https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/15d5c6748d609a6e?projector=1

4 There are currently at least 76 American firms in the methane mitigation industry at 531 locations in 46 states with 102 manufacturing sites. Datu, op.cit., p.23

5 Regulatory Impact Analysis of the Final Emission Standards for New and Modified Sources in the Oil and Natural Gas Sector. May 2016. https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OAR-2010-0505-7630 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Save EPA has been an all-volunteer group of former EPA officials who became alarmed about the Trump agenda for EPA and joined together to fight it.

With newly-elected President-Elect Biden and VP-Elect Harris coming in January, the need to "save EPA" is much less urgent. This is not to imply all clear skies ahead - there is much re-building to do, there will be negative pressures on the new administration, and we will likely have policy differences in the future. However, we are hopeful that these differences will be discussed rationally, using science as a basis for moving forward, and keeping EPA's mission of protecting human health and the environment in the forefront.

And so, we are going back to retirement!  We're keeping our website up at http://saveepaalums.info/ , as a resource for those who want to follow and influence the restoration work. Our report on the Trump record at EPA describes the actions that need to be reversed [saveepaalums.info/Trump+era+report], and our guide to participating in the rulemaking process [http://saveepaalums.info/Resistance+Guide] can help you be part of the solution.

Thank you for your support and commitment during the past 3.5 years.  While the Trump assaults were unending, they were also frequently unsuccessful, and that was due in large part to public outrage.  Keep it up!  Although EPA will be in much better hands with a Biden administration, there is always a need for an informed and engaged public.