EPA launches voluntary methane control program with 41 companies

The US Environmental Protection Agency launched a voluntary oil and gas methane emissions reduction effort, the Natural Gas STAR Methane Challenge Program, with 41 companies. The partnership between EPA and the companies builds on the regulator’s Natural Gas STAR program, which focuses on cost-effective methane emission reductions from natural gas operations.

The program is part of EPA’s strategy to curb methane emissions and meet the Obama administration’s commitment to cut domestic emissions 40-45% by 2025, Administrator Gina McCarthy said on Mar. 30. Its initial membership covers primarily local gas distribution firms, but includes 9 transmission and storage companies and 1 with gathering and boosting operations.

“We expect program participation to grow over time, and are actively working to expand the options for participation by finalizing an additional Emissions Intensity Commitment option through the ONE Future Coalition,” Janet McCabe, acting EPA assistant administrator for air and radiation, said in a Mar. 30 blog post.

The coalition is a group of companies from across the gas industry focused on making the gas supply chain more efficient, she said.

EPA said the Methane Challenge Program will provide partner companies with a platform to make company-wide commitments to cut emissions from sources within their operations by implementing a suite of best management practices within 5 years.

Transparency is a fundamental part of the program, and partner achievements will be tracked by submitting annual data directly to EPA, it noted. Partner companies have committed to replacing or rehabilitating cast iron and unprotected steel distribution mains, and to reducing methane emissions from pipeline blowdowns, among other activities, the federal environmental regulator said.

The 37 gas utilities which are among the Methane Challenge Program’s charter members serve 66% of the nation’s gas customers, the American Gas Association separately said. “For more than two decades, gas utilities have worked productively with EPA to share best practices, helping to improve distribution operations and reduce emissions,” AGA Chairman Ralph LaRossa said.

“EPA has recognized the success of our voluntary efforts by continuing to address emissions from distribution through voluntary actions rather than regulatory mandates. We look forward to working with EPA and our members on this ambitious voluntary program,” said LaRossa, who also is president and chief operating officer of Public Service Electric & Gas Co. in New Jersey.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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