MethaneIn May, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released regulations designed to curb methane (CH4) emissions from new, modified and reconstructed oil and natural gas sources. As part of the Obama administration’s effort to combat climate change, the rule attempts to reduce methane emissions by as much as 45% from 2012 levels by 2025. According to the EPA, methane is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted by humans on a pound for pound basis. Although the atmospheric lifetime of CH4 is much shorter than carbon dioxide (CO2), methane is at least 25 times more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Reception for this new rule has ranged from vocal support by environmental organizations to strong opposition from the oil and gas industry.

EPA Administrator McCarthy stated the methane regulations will protect the public health and reduce pollution linked to cancer and other serious health effects by offering guidance on locating leaks. The rule sets a monitoring schedule and includes a process known as a “green completion” to capture emissions from hydraulically fractured oil wells. EPA projects that the regulation will cost companies $530 million by 2025 while generating, $690 million in climate benefits and savings. EPA also estimates methane emissions will decrease by 510,000 tons in 2025, the equivalent of 11 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Opponents have labeled the rule as an unnecessary and overly burdensome regulation that does not recognize the significant methane reductions already achieved by oil and natural gas developers. Since 2011, CH4 emissions overall have decreased by 13% with the largest reductions coming from hydraulic fracturing, where methane emissions have decreased by 83%. In addition, industry representatives claim the regulations could chill investment in future technologies engineered to further reduce emissions as well as threaten the shale energy revolution: “Imposing a one-size-fits-all scheme on the industry could actually stifle innovation and discourage investments in new technologies that could serve to further reduce emissions,” API’s Kyle Isakower said.