President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister JustinTrudeau will clamp down even more on methane emissions from oil andnatural gas wells as part of a broader effort to tackle globalwarming.
Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will now begincrafting rules to regulate methane from hundreds of thousands ofoil and gas wells already in operation despite not having finalizedrules for wells not yet drilled, according to The Wall Street Journal. EPA plans to release adraft rule in April to give companies hints of the technologiesthey will have to install to be able to stay in business.
“Our countries are stepping up to the challenge of methaneemissions, and driving forward the regulatory measures necessary tocurb methane emissions from existing oil and gas sources,” BrianDeese, senior adviser to Obama, told The WSJ.
The EPA has been working on rules to clamp down on methane foryears, despite the fact that existing voluntary programs and newtechnologies are causing methaneemissions from natural gas operations to plummet even as productionhas increased.
EPA’s own data shows methane emissions have fallen 13 percent from 2011to 2014. Not only that, emissions from hydraulic fracturing, orfracking, fell 81 percent from 2012 to 2014.
Recent research suggests EPA has been underreporting methane emissions, but thetrend is still downward as fracking operations become moreefficient and capture more methane released from extracting shalegas.
Obama and Trudeau announced a plan to reduce methane emissions40 to 45 percent by 2025. It’s a commitment Obama has already made,but it has the oil industry worried about new regulatory costs at atime when low crude prices have many companies facing financial ruin.
Trudeau joining Obama in announcing new regulations on oil andgas wells signals a shift in U.S.-Canadian relations. Obama was inconstant conflict with Canada’s conservative former Prime MinisterStephen Harper over energy policy, not least of all the president’srefusal to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Trudeau is much more concerned about global warming and wants towork with Obama on the issue. Indeed, Trudeau has already banned oil tanker exports from BritishColumbia in an effort to derail a controversial pipelineproject.
Obama’s announcement, however, comes after the Supreme Court halted the implementation of the EPA’s so-calledClean Power Plan — the lynchpin of Obama’s pledge to the UnitedNations to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent by2025.
Obama’s move against methane could be a way to salvage hiscredibility on global warming with the international communitybefore the U.N. climate deal, agreed to in Paris last year, isformally signed in April.
But even if Obama’s new methane regulations are implemented,they won’t likely have any meaningful impact on projected globalwarming. Climate scientists with the libertarian Cato Institutepreviously estimated Obama’s methane plan would stem just 0.002 degrees Celsius ofprojected warming by 2100.
Steve Everley of the industry-backed Energy In Depth appliedCato’s analysis to Obama’s new proposal and incorporatedupdated methane measurements. Everley found Obama’s plan would leadto “0.004 degrees Celsius, or four one-thousandths of one degree,of avoided warming by the year 2100.”
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