By Philip L. Comella and Craig B. Simonsen

In another move to implement the President’s Climate Action Plan, the Obama Administration today announced a new goal to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025.

According to EPA, methane emissions accounted for nearly ten percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2012, with nearly thirty percent of that coming from the production, transmission, and distribution of oil and natural gas. To achieve this goal, and building on five technical white papers issued last spring, EPA will initiate a rulemaking 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 plans to issue the proposed rule in the summer of 2015, with a final rule 2016.

Law360 reported that Dan Utech, the Special Assistant to President Barack Obama for Energy and Climate Change, said that to implement the Administration’s goal, this new set of new rules will first target new sources such as hydraulic fracturing operations, under section 111(b) of the Clean Air Act. Utech estimated that the rules will save up to 180 billion cubic feet of gas that would otherwise be “wasted.” “The overall plan will also include efforts to reduce volatile organic compounds, and a voluntary component for industry.”

EPA expects that other actions under this new goal may also include:

  • New Guidelines to Reduce Volatile Organic Compounds.
  • Enhancing Leak Detection and Emissions Reporting.
  • Lead by Example on Public Lands.
  • Reduce Methane Emissions while Improving Pipeline Safety.
  • Drive Technology to Reduce Natural Gas Losses and Improve Emissions Quantification.
  • Modernize Natural Gas Transmission and Distribution Infrastructure.
  • Release a Quadrennial Energy Review (QER).
  • Expand the Natural Gas STAR Program.

We will continue to monitor and blog on this important topic.