GOP senators ask White House to clarify EPA’s methane strategy

Seven US Senate Republicans asked President Barack Obama if mandatory methane reduction requirements for the oil and gas industry are necessary when the industry and states already are making significant headway in reducing emissions.

“Simply stated, the evidence is clear that these mandatory reductions are unnecessary and will be less effective than a voluntary, cooperative effort,” the GOP lawmakers said in a June 11 letter to the president.

“Greater federal regulatory burdens are unnecessary, and will complicate ongoing state efforts to reduce emissions, slow domestic energy production, and, in this instance, possibly trigger even costlier and more far-reaching rules on the sector,” they said.

The group, led by Environment and Public Works Committee Chair James M. Inhofe (Okla.) and Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (Alas.) asked Obama to shelve the proposal, and EPA to postpone mandates for new and modified oil and gas sources indefinitely.

Sens. John A. Barrasso (Wyo.), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), David Vitter (La.), and Roger F. Wicker (Miss.) also signed the letter.

The senators said that despite the proposed regulations’ ostensible purpose being to reduce hazardous air pollutants (HAP) and volatile organic compounds (VOC), “we see an attempt to regulate methane…despite [EPA’s] notable misunderstandings concerning key aspects of the industry’s operations.”

Numerous inaccuracies

Multiple parties have noted that EPA’s five white papers in 2013 included numerous inaccuracies concerning data and terminology, and mistaken assumptions about technologies to reduce methane and how they can be applied across producing basins, the letter noted. “Calls to withdraw those white papers, and to collaborate with industry to correct them, went unheeded,” it said.

The Obama administration set a new goal to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector from 2012 levels by 40–45% by 2025, and a set of actions to put the US on a path to achieve this goal earlier this year (OGJ Online, Jan. 15, 2015). It said EPA would propose regulations this summer, with a goal of finalizing them in 2016.

Oil and gas industry innovation, coupled with effective, targeted state regulations, have made the US the world’s leading oil and gas producer, which has strengthened its domestic economy and international influence, the senators said.

“Yet misguided federal regulations could put all that at risk,” they said. “We think objective data show the industry has made remarkable progress in reducing methane emissions over the last 2 decades without heavy-handed federal mandates.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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