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FACT SHEET: Administration Takes Steps Forward on Climate Action Plan by Announcing Actions to Cut Methane Emissions

01/14/2015

The Obama Administration is committed to taking responsible steps to address climate change and help ensure a cleaner, more stable environment for future generations. As part of that effort, today, the Administration is announcing a new goal to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 - 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025, and a set of actions to put the U.S. on a path to achieve this ambitious goal.

U.S. oil production is at the highest level in nearly 30 years, providing important energy security and economic benefits. The U.S. is also now the largest natural gas producer in the world, providing an abundant source of clean-burning fuel to power and heat American homes and businesses. Continuing to rely on these domestic energy resources is a critical element of the President's energy strategy. At the same time, methane - the primary component of natural gas - is a potent greenhouse gas, with 25 times the heat-trapping potential of carbon dioxide over a 100-year period.

Methane emissions accounted for nearly 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2012, of which nearly 30 percent came from the production transmission and distribution of oil and natural gas. Emissions from the oil and gas sector are down 16 percent since 1990 and current data show significant reductions from certain parts of the sector, notably well completions. Nevertheless, emissions from the oil and gas sector are projected to rise more than 25 percent by 2025 without additional steps to lower them. For these reasons, a strategy for cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector is an important component of efforts to address climate change.

The steps announced today are also a sound economic and public health strategy because reducing methane emissions means capturing valuable fuel that is otherwise wasted and reducing other harmful pollutants - a win for public health and the economy. Achieving the Administration's goal would save up to 180 billion cubic feet of natural gas in 2025, enough to heat more than 2 million homes for a year and continue to support businesses that manufacture and sell cost-effective technologies to identify, quantify, and reduce methane emissions.

ADMINISTRATION ACTIONS TO REDUCE METHANE EMISSIONS
Building on prior actions by the Administration, and leadership in states and industry, today the Administration is announcing a series of steps encompassing both commonsense standards and cooperative engagement with states, tribes and industry to put us on a path toward the 2025 goal. This coordinated, cross-agency effort will ensure a harmonized approach that also considers the important role of FERC, state utility commissions and environmental agencies, and industry. Administration actions include:

Propose and Set Commonsense Standards for Methane and Ozone-Forming Emissions from New and Modified Sources
In 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) laid a foundation for further action when it issued standards for volatile organic compounds (VOC) from the oil and natural gas industry. These standards, when fully implemented, are expected to reduce 190,000 to 290,000 tons of VOC and decrease methane emissions in an amount equivalent to 33 million tons of carbon pollution per year. The standards not only relied on technologies and practices already in widespread use in the oil and gas sector, but also incorporated innovative regulatory flexibility. Along with a rule to streamline permitting of oil and gas production on certain tribal lands, this approach ensured that important public health and environmental protections could be achieved while oil and gas production continued to grow and expand.

Building on five technical white papers issued last spring, the peer review and public input received on these documents, and the actions that a number of states are already taking, EPA will initiate a rulemaking effort to set standards for methane and VOC emissions from new and modified oil and gas production sources, and natural gas processing and transmission sources. EPA will issue a proposed rule in the summer of 2015 and a final rule will follow in 2016. In developing these standards, EPA will work with industry, states, tribes, and other stakeholders to consider a range of common-sense approaches that can reduce emissions from the sources discussed in the agency's Oil and Gas White Papers, including oil well completions, pneumatic pumps, and leaks from well sites, gathering and boosting stations, and compressor stations. As it did in the 2012 standards, the agency, in developing the proposal and final standards, will focus on in-use technologies, current industry practices, emerging innovations and streamlined and flexible regulatory approaches to ensure that emissions reductions can be achieved as oil and gas production and operations continue to grow.

New Guidelines to Reduce Volatile Organic Compounds
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. These guidelines will also reduce methane emissions in these areas. The guidelines will help states that are developing clean air ozone plans by providing a ready-to-adopt control measure that they can include in those plans.


Consider Enhancing Leak Detection and Emissions Reporting
EPA will continue to promote transparency and accountability for existing sources by strengthening its Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program to require reporting in all segments of the industry. In addition to finalizing the updates to the program EPA has already proposed by the end of 2015, 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.

Lead by Example on Public Lands
The Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will update decades-old standards to reduce wasteful venting, flaring, and leaks of natural gas, which is primarily methane, 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. This action will enhance our energy security and economy by boosting America's natural gas supplies, ensuring that taxpayers receive the royalties due to them from development of public resources, and reducing emissions. BLM will work closely with EPA to ensure an integrated approach.

Reduce Methane Emissions while Improving Pipeline Safety
The Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazard