EPA sends methane leak rule for final review

The Obama administration has started the final review stage for proposed regulations to minimize methane leaks from the oil and natural gas sector.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent its proposal to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Tuesday, the agency said.

“This routine step is part of EPA’s January 2015 commitment under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to address methane and smog-forming emissions from the oil and gas industry,” EPA spokeswoman Melissa Harrison said in a statement.

The rules are part of a large effort by the Obama administration to reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that has more than 20-times the global warming power of carbon dioxide. It is the main component of natural gas.

Taken together, the administration’s regulations and voluntary efforts on methane are meant to cut the gas’s emissions by between 40 and 45 percent.

The administration has not revealed the details of its proposal yet, but it plans to do so after the OMB review is complete. It will then invite public comments on the proposal.

The EPA announced in January that it would formally consider regulating methane leaks from newly drilled or modified oil and natural gas wells.

The agency received immediate criticism from drillers, who said that they are already working to reduce leaks, which is in their economic interest.

But officials were also criticized by environmentalists, who accused them of ignoring the 1.1 million existing oil and gas wells.