Environmental

EPA rule will allow more climate-damaging methane into the environment

Aliso Canyon natural gas leak Courthouse News image EPA rule will allow more climate damaging methane into the environmentIt is bad enough for the environment – and especially human health – that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Trump administration is allowing new uses of cancer-causing asbestos whereas 60 other countries around the globe have banned the mineral due to its toxicity to humans. Now the agency – under the same Trump regime – is proposing to ease Obama-era requirements for oil and gas companies regarding the monitoring and repairing of methane leaks, the New York Times reports.

Methane is among the most powerful greenhouse gases. It damages the climate when it is released during natural gas production and distribution. One pound of methane traps 25 times more heat in the atmosphere than a pound of carbon dioxide, according to the EPA. Oil and gas wells are notorious for methane leaks.

Pushing for the expedient repair of methane leaks was one of former President Barack Obama’s efforts to curb climate change. But the proposed EPA rule will allow much more methane to leak from oil and gas drilling operations.

Instead of requiring these companies to perform leak inspections on their own drilling equipment as much as every six months and to repair leaks within 30 days, the proposed rule would allow inspections only once a year for most companies, and every other year for low-producing wells. Companies would also have twice as long – 60 days – to repair leaks. The amount of time required between inspections of natural gas equipment would also be stretched from once every three months to once every six months.

Furthermore, the new rule would allow energy companies to follow state-level methane standards instead of federal ones if they operate in states that have them, like Texas, where pollution standards are less stringent than federal ones.

If passed, the new rule will save the oil and gas industry an estimated $484 million by 2015. The cost to the environment, however, will likely be measured in time.

Source: New York Times