The US Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday published finalised standards designed to prevent methane emission leaks from new or modified oil and gas facilities, toughening up the measure from a draft last August.
It also unveiled preliminary plans to increase MRV requirements for existing facilities, a move issued in response to new scientific data that show methane leaks from these sources are far higher than previously thought. But the agency acknowledged that it was unlikely that these rules would be introduced before President Obama leaves office next January.
The agency received over 900,000 comments on its draft for new and existing wells and pipelines, which was published before the four-month Aliso Canyon methane leak in California – dubbed the worst accidental discharge of greenhouse gases in US history.
The final standards double the required inspections to four times a year and remove exemptions for less active wells. The EPA estimates that the standards will cut methane emissions by 11 million tonnes of CO2e by 2025, higher than the draft’s projected 7.7-9 million tonnes.
The move is one of the final steps in the Obama administration’s multi-part strategy to curb GHG output by deploying regulatory powers that don’t require the approval of a reluctant Congress and are aimed at meeting the US’ Paris Agreement pledge to cut emissions 26-28% under 2005 levels by 2025.
Methane is the country’s number two GHG after CO2, but taking action to curb the potent warming gas has grown in importance in recent years since the nation’s boom in shale gas.
The EPA aims to cut methane from the sector by 40-45% below 2012 levels by 2025.
President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier this year agreed to work together on reducing methane across the oil and gas sector in both countries, as well as collaborate on carbon markets.
Environment and Climate Change Canada, the EPA’s counterpart to the north, will work with provinces and stakeholders to publish its own initial phase of proposed regulations targeting methane from new and existing sources by early 2017.
By Ben Garside – email@example.com