New EPA methane rules spell disaster for American economy
© Greg Nash
More than a dozen states have now filed lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency over its new regulations on methane emissions.
 
Court rulings against the Obama administration will likely start rolling in soon. The regulations are based on dubious data and driven more by politics than science. They would devastate the economy and the environment.
 
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We simply can't let a federal power play bring the American energy revolution to a halt.
 
Last year, the EPA reported that, since 2005, net methane emissions from natural gas infrastructure had fallen 38 percent, while total methane emissions from natural gas had dropped 11 percent.
 
This year, however, the EPA claims methane emissions from the oil and gas industry are one-third higher than previously thought. And that overall methane emissions from natural gas have dropped only 0.68 percent since 2005. That's quite a turnaround. What happened?
 
The agency says it now has better data to determine methane emissions, but this new methane methodology is highly suspect, not only because of the administration's political objective here, but because of the methodology.
 
The latest figures are based on older sources developed in the 1990s, and much of the EPA's "new data" is extrapolated from some of the largest methane emitters, which inflates the current measurements.
 
The EPA is now using the cooked-up data to justify imposing much tighter limits on methane emissions from oil and gas infrastructure -- at a hefty price. According to the EPA itself, the regulations will cost $530 million by 2025.
 
Other studies have found that the annual price tag to comply with these regulations could hit $800 million. National Economic Research Associates has concluded that, by 2020, the regulations could be three times more expensive than the EPA projects.
 
These costs would will undoubtedly be passed on to consumers in the form of higher energy bills and more expensive consumer products -- depleting the serious energy savings consumers recently have been enjoying along the way. Surging domestic energy production boosted the disposable income of the average American household by $1,337 last year, and saved consumers an average of $550 at the gas pump.
 
What's more, the new rules are sure to hamstring one of the American economy's precious few sources of job growth: natural gas. Between 2005 and 2012, the U.S. lost over 378,000 jobs across all sectors. During the same period, energy production created more than 293,000 jobs.
 
Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," and horizontal drilling, which produce most of America's natural gas, support 2.1 million jobs -- a figure expected to nearly double by 2025. The new methane standards would crush job growth by impeding new oil and gas projects.
 
Ironically, the new methane rules will hurt the environment. As of last year, natural gas-fired power plants tied coal-powered plants as America's biggest sources of electricity production. 
 
Because gas-fired energy plants produce 50 percent less carbon dioxide than coal plants, natural gas infrastructure growth has played a key role in reducing carbon emissions.
 
The oil and gas industry has been very effective at reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The industry has invested $90 billion in zero or low-carbon energy technologies since 2000 -- almost as much as the federal government has spent on clean energy.
 
Finally, it's worth asking where exactly the EPA's legal authority to exert such tremendous control over the economy comes from. Congress has passed no law requiring the EPA to clamp down on methane emissions.
 
"This is yet another example of unlawful federal overreach," noted West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. "The rules are a solution in search of a problem and ignore the industry's success in voluntarily reducing methane emissions from these sources to a 30-year low."
 
Unaccountable federal bureaucrats shouldn't be allowed to raise energy prices or kill American jobs, period. Especially not when their agenda is political, not scientific.
 
Jeff Stier is a Senior Fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and heads its Risk Analysis Division.

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.