EPA chief pushes economic case of capturing methane

Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyConvention shows Democrats support fracking, activists on the fringe Overnight Energy: Officials close in on new global emissions deal EPA chief: US, negotiators nearing new emissions deal MORE on Tuesday stressed the need for industry to tamp down on methane leaks and flaring.

While taking steps to capture methane would help combat climate change, it would also make companies more profitable, McCarthy argued at an energy conference.

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"It's not wasted byproduct, it is product that is being wasted," McCarthy said at the Barclays 2014 energy conference on Tuesday. "The less methane that is leaked and gets away from you, the more profitable your business is."

"This makes good economic sense and is essential if we want to get serious about climate change," McCarthy said.

Earlier this year, the administration released a methane strategy that directed agencies to research ways to tackle emissions. Since then, the EPA has published several white papers on mitigation efforts, but remains quiet on whether it will formally propose regulations to reign in emissions from hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.

McCarthy hinted that such regulations could be issued under the same section of the Clean Air Act that was used to propose the agency's carbon pollution rules for existing power plants.

"We are looking at the most cost-effective targeted regulatory, and or voluntary initiatives that we may be able to put on the table that significantly take a chunk out of methane emissions in the oil and gas sector," McCarthy said.

If the EPA plans to propose regulations on methane emissions, it would need to move quickly in order to finalize the rule before President Obama leaves office.