Senate Dems ask EPA to do more on methane emissions

A group of Senate Democrats is asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate methane leaks from existing oil and natural gas wells.

The 21 senators, led by Sens. Brian Schatz (Hawaii) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseMoney for nothing: Rethinking CO2 Dem takes Exxon fight to GOP chairman's backyard Anti-trade senators say chamber would be crazy to pass TPP MORE (R.I.), said the EPA didn’t go far enough last year when it proposed new rules to cut down on methane leaks but only for wells drilled after the final regulation is written.

“Moving forward with this rulemaking would sustain our international leadership on this issue and put forward a precedent that other countries can follow, much as they have done with our current methane commitment,” the senators wrote in a Thursday letter to the EPA.

Covering existing wells would have to come through a separate regulation, which the administration should undertake, the lawmakers said.

In addition to new wells, the Democrats want the EPA to look at some storage vessels, compressors, controllers and other equipment that was left out of the proposal.

“These sources are associated with significant methane emissions, and low cost controls exist for all of them. We therefore urge EPA to cover them in the final rule,” they said.

Methane, the main component in natural gas, has about 25 times the global warming power of carbon dioxide, although it does not stay in the atmosphere for long.

The EPA’s rules are part of a suite of methane efforts from the Obama administration, including rules specifically for wells in federal land and voluntary programs to cut methane in agriculture.