On January 14, 2015, the Office of the Press Secretary released a fact sheet announcing the Obama Administration’s “new goal to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas industry by 40-45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025.”  In furtherance of this goal, the fact sheet also sets out a list of specific actions the Administration intends to complete.  The initiative will be run primarily by the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), which will operate in coordination with the Department of Energy (“DOE”), the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”), and the Department of Transportation (“DOT”).

The Administration explained in its announcement that the included actions for reducing methane will benefit both public health and the economy since reducing methane emissions would mean capturing fuel that would otherwise be wasted while improving air quality.

The planned Administrative actions to reduce methane emissions include:

  • The EPA will initiate a rulemaking effort to set standards for methane and volatile organic compound emissions from new and modified oil and gas production sources, and natural gas processing and transmission sources. The proposed rule will be released in the summer of 2015 and a final rule will follow in 2016.
  • The EPA will develop new guidelines to assist states in reducing ozone-forming pollutants from existing oil and gas systems in areas that do not meet the ozone health standard and in states in the Ozone Transport Region.
  • The EPA will explore potential regulatory opportunities for applying remote sensing technologies and other innovations in measurement and monitoring technology to further improve the identification and quantification of emissions and improve the overall accuracy and transparency of reported data cost-effectively.
  • The BLM will update decades-old standards to reduce venting, flaring, and leaks of natural gas from oil and gas wells. These standards, to be proposed this spring, will address both new and existing oil and gas wells on public lands.
  • In 2015 the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration will propose natural gas pipeline safety standards that are expected to also lower methane gas emissions.
  • The President’s FY16 Budget will propose $15 million in funding for the DOE to develop and demonstrate more cost-effective technologies to detect and reduce losses from natural gas transmission and distribution systems, as well as $10 million to launch a program at the DOE to enhance the quantification of emissions from natural gas infrastructure for inclusion in the national Greenhouse Gas Inventory in coordination with EPA.
  • The DOE will continue to take steps to encourage reduced emissions, particularly from natural gas transmission and distribution.
  • The Administration will issue a Quadrennial Energy Review (“QER”) in the near future that will focus specifically on policy actions that the Administration believes are needed to help modernize energy transmission, storage, and distribution infrastructure. The first installment of the QER will include additional policy recommendations and analysis on the environmental, safety, and economic benefits of investments that reduce natural gas system leakage.

The announcement is intended to build on Administration’s “Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions,” a comprehensive, interagency plan to cut methane emissions, released in March 2014.

To view the fact sheet, click here.