In a span of less than 24 hours, the Trump administration this week announced it intends to not only delay the EPA’s methane rule targeting new and modified oil and gas infrastructure for two years, but also indefinitely postpone compliance with key parts of the equally controversial Bureau of Land Management (BLM) methane rule. The latter news broke Wednesday, while the former announcement came late Tuesday, adding to the 90-day compliance delay on the rule announced by EPA just two weeks ago.
EPA explained it was proposing the two-year delay on its methane rule “to ensure portions of the agency’s 2016 New Source Performance Standards for the oil and natural gas industry do not take effect while the agency works through the reconsideration process.” The EPA also stated in a press release that,
“Under the proposal, sources would not need to comply with these requirements while the stay is in effect. Since issuing the final rule, EPA has received several petitions to reconsider certain aspects of the rule.”
There will now be a 30-day public comment period before decision is finalized.
Not surprisingly, the EPA’s proposal extend its New Source Performance standard delay was criticized by environmental groups that have already sued EPA over its original 90-day delay. But as EID has highlighted numerous times since the rule was unveiled last year, there is no shortage of evidence that voluntary mitigation measures have significantly reduced oil and natural as system methane emissions, illustrating that the EPA rule is a solution in search of a problem.
The EPA’s latest Greenhouse Gas Inventory show combined natural gas and petroleum system methane emissions have fallen 19 percent since 1990 at the same time natural gas production has risen 52 percent and oil production has increased 28 percent. These emissions also decreased from 2014 to 2015 – at a time when natural gas production hit record highs. The American Gas Association recently noted that the amount of methane emissions per unit of natural gas produced has declined 46 percent since 1990.
And earlier this month, a peer-reviewed National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) study was released that found emission estimates reported in a series of studies used to justify federal methane regulations may have been significantly exaggerated.
It is a similar story with regard to the BLM rule.
The latest EPA data show that methane emissions from venting and flaring have plummeted 77 percent since 2011 at the same time oil production has increased 67 percent.
In fact, the EPA’s latest Greenhouse Gas Inventory notes,
“Since 1990, CH4 emissions from production field operations have decreased 29 percent, due to a large decrease in associated gas venting. Production segment methane emissions have decreased by around 8 percent from 2014 levels, primarily due to decreases in emissions from associated gas venting and flaring…”
The Interior Department’s decision to postpone the January 2018 compliance deadline for venting and flaring components of the BLM regulation is based on uncertainty created by ongoing litigation prompted, in part, by the aforementioned data. The Interior Department states in a Federal Register notice that will be published Thursday that,
“Given this legal uncertainty, operators should not be required to expend substantial time and resources to comply with regulatory requirements that may prove short-lived as a result of pending litigation or the administrative review that is already under way. Postponing these compliance dates will help preserve the regulatory status quo while the litigation is pending and the Department reviews and reconsiders the Rule.”