EDF Experts Speak at EPA Listening Sessions on Methane Standards, Stress Benefits of Protections for Climate, Communities and Economy

June 15, 2021
Matt McGee, (512) 691-3478, mmcgee@edf.org

(WASHINGTON) Today EDF experts testified as EPA holds listening sessions on advancing new methane protections for new and existing oil and gas facilities, joining hundreds of citizens to call for strengthened standards.

“EDF urges EPA to propose and adopt protective standards for sources across the oil and natural gas sector reflecting the best available science and technology to achieve deep cuts in climate-destabilizing and health-harming pollution,” said EDF legal fellow Edwin LaMair in his testimony.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas responsible for a quarter of our current global warming. Reducing methane emissions is critical for keeping global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius, and peer-reviewed research shows comprehensive cuts across sectors could avoid a quarter degree of warming by midcentury.

The U.S. oil and gas industry emitted 16 million metric tons of methane in 2019, with a near-term climate impact of 350 coal-fired power plants. Reducing these emissions is the fastest, most cost-effective way to slow the rate of global warming and also reduces harmful co-pollutants such as volatile organic compounds and toxic pollution like benzene that threaten the health of the roughly 9.1 million people in the U.S. living within a half-mile of an existing oil or gas well.

“Standards for oil and gas sources must be designed to benefit communities overburdened with industrial development and polluted air,” said LaMair. “Reducing emissions in these communities is critically important and EPA should ensure these communities are engaged and thoroughly heard as the agency crafts new clean air standards.”

EDF senior scientist David Lyon testified about the characteristics of oil and gas methane emissions and how our scientific understanding of them can support robust regulations.

“Our scientific understanding of oil and gas methane emissions has expanded greatly over the last decade and can inform effective regulations for reducing emissions,” said Dr. Lyon. “Emissions can almost always be mitigated once detected, sometimes with a simple repair to stop a leak, other times by implementing operational and/or equipment changes that improves a site’s efficiency.”

EDF senior attorney Rosalie Winn added in her testimony the importance of addressing outsized emissions from marginal wells, incorporating advanced monitoring, upgrading to zero-emission equipment, and tackling flaring.

“[R]ecent analyses show that most marginal wells are actually owned by large operators.  Accordingly, we urge EPA to eliminate the low-production well exemption,” noted Winn. “Ensuring broad-based coverage of significant emitting sources, including marginal wells, is supported by the latest data and can help to promote clarity and enhance compliance with the standards.”

Strengthening methane emissions rules and accelerating advanced technologies can also be an important driver of job creation. As Winn explained in her testimony, the methane mitigation industry has grown to help oil and gas companies find and fix leaks to reduce emissions and keep natural gas in the pipe. A new report outlines the rapid growth of this sector and its widespread economic footprint across the country.

“Right now, EPA has an unparalleled opportunity to seize on available, cost-effective solutions that have been effectively deployed by states and leading companies to achieve deep reductions in methane emissions in all communities across the country,” she testified.

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