As part of the Obama Administration’s Climate Action Plan, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced proposed standards to reduce the emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the oil and gas industry. The proposed standards seek to cut methane from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent by 2025.  In order to implement these changes, the EPA will update its 2012 New Source Performance Standards to address methane and VOC emissions in covered sources and will propose changes to the Clean Air Act permitting requirements.

Methane is categorized as a greenhouse gas (GHG) due to its global warming potential, which is over 25 times greater than carbon dioxide. Methane is the second most widespread greenhouse gas produced in the United States as a result of human activity, and is a key ingredient of natural gas. Currently, methane alone is responsible for almost nine percent of domestic greenhouse gas emissions, which EPA and the Obama Administration seek to address through the new standards.

The Climate Action Plan outlines a set of strategies to reduce GHG emissions into the environment, and deliver economic benefits, climate change benefits and public health protection. The Administration claims that these actions will provide more energy sources to communities, farms, factories and power plants; as well as improve the overall public health. The Administration’s targeted strategy takes steps to reduce methane emissions from the following sources:

  • Landfills
  • Coal Mines
  • Agriculture
  • Oil and Gas

Requirements of New Standards

EPA’s proposed standards to implement the Administration’s plan will complement existing voluntary efforts to cut methane and VOC emissions, which are based on industry practices that are currently used. The proposal includes the following requirements:

  • Locate and repair any leaks
  • Capture natural gas from the completion of hydraulically fractured oil wells
  • Limit emissions from new and modified pneumatic pumps
  • Limit emissions from equipment used at natural gas transmission compressor stations, including compressors and pneumatic controllers

According to EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy, these new cost-effective standards highlight the agency’s ongoing commitment to climate change and its dedication to public health through cleaner-burning energy sources like natural gas. The EPA’s Clean Power Plan is committed to providing safe and responsible production of clean-burning energy sources that support a clean energy economy.

According the EPA, the proposed standards will reduce 340,000 to 400,000 short tons of methane in 2025 from new and modified sources, which is comparable to reducing 7.7 to nine million metric tons of carbon dioxide. EPA estimates that this reduction translates into net climate benefits of $120 to $150 million in 2025. The agency also expects to see significant reductions in ozone-forming VOCs as well as air toxins like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene.

New Jersey Environmental Lawyers at Michelman & Bricker Help Clients Comply with the New Standards in Environmental Law

New Jersey environmental lawyers at Michelman & Bricker help clients stay abreast of the latest changes in environmental law.  From obtaining appropriate permits to addressing enforcement actions, we advise clients in all aspects of environmental compliance throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

We have previously assisted clients in such matters as obtaining Clean Air Act New Source Review plan approval for emissions from installation of a new press at a Rotogravure Printing facility; resolving civil penalties action for construction of the New Source prior to issuance of permit; negotiating a  settlement with state air quality agency on behalf of a plastics manufacturer over construction of several New Sources before obtaining a permit first; and representing a rubber textile manufacturer in resolving its air quality violations with the City of Philadelphia. To set up a consultation at our Cherry Hill, New Jersey offices, call 856-661-9499 or contact us online.