EPA May Force Drillers to Cut Methane Leaks, Chief Says

Sept. 2 (Bloomberg) — The Environmental Protection Agency
is considering rules that would force oil and gas producers to
cut methane emissions, its chief said, stepping up efforts to
curb the most potent greenhouse gas linked to climate change.

Gina McCarthy, the EPA administrator, told investors at a
New York forum today the agency will decide this year whether to
issue regulations mandating emission cuts, or to rely only on
voluntary steps.

“We are looking at what are the most cost-effective
regulatory and-or voluntary efforts that can take a chunk out of
methane in the system,” McCarthy said. “It’s not just for
climate, but for air quality” reasons, she said.

Methane is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and
climate advocates have said that without curbs on emissions from
the oil and gas industry, President Barack Obama will fall short
of his goal to cut climate-change emissions. The
administration’s plan to cut methane, issued in March, said the
EPA would decide whether to regulate the industry. Rules, if
issued, would take effect in 2016, the government said.

McCarthy said two sections of the Clean Air Act could be
used to regulate methane. Because production is causing
dangerously high ozone levels in some areas where hydraulic
fracturing, or fracking, is booming, “we recognize that this is
a traditional air quality problem,” she said.

The issue has gained attention as fracking fuels a boom in
gas and oil production in states such as North Dakota, Texas and
Pennsylvania, leading to some air-quality woes. Critics of
fracking, in which water, sand and chemicals are shot
underground to free gas or oil trapped in rock, say methane
leaks undercut the climate benefits of using natural gas.

When it’s burned to produce electricity, natural gas emits
about half the carbon dioxide, the main gas tied to global
warming, as coal. If too much methane escapes during production
and transport, that environmental benefit is diminished or lost.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Mark Drajem in Washington at
mdrajem@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Jon Morgan at
jmorgan97@bloomberg.net
Steve Geimann

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