According to the Environmental Protection Agency, America’s natural gas industry has cut methane emissions by 11 percent in the past decade.  Methane emissions from hydraulically fractured natural gas wells are down 79 percent in that period.  Further, greenhouse gas pollution, which had been rising by about 2.4 percent per year, slowed in 2014 and actually declined in 2015 according to a study published last week in the journal, Nature Climate Change. 

Despite those facts and the progress they represent, EPA has decided to implement more burdensome government regulations on the oil and gas industry.  

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The EPA wants regulations to drive methane emissions down 40 percent by 2025. This duplicative, costly regulation will prove very damaging to an oil and gas sector already struggling with plummeting prices.  This is regulation “because I can,” rather than “because it’s logical or needed.” 

In pressing for these regulations, the EPA seems to be ignoring the facts.  US carbon emissions have been fallen an average of 1.4 percent per year for most of the past decade.  Western Europe’s emissions are following the same path.  Even China’s carbon pollution is down by nearly 4 percent.  All these changes took place as the world economy has been improving.   

Further, EPA is either ignoring -- or may not understand -- how important the energy industry is to our country. We all know oil and gas provides fuel for our cars, homes, and businesses. Fewer people know that oil and gas provide raw materials for many American businesses.  But many in EPA and out, may not realize the sector provides 9.8 million jobs and represents a direct eight percent of the nation’s economy.    

A recent NERA Economic Consulting study commissioned by the American Council on Capital Formation found major flaws in the EPA’s rationale for its new rule.  It concluded that EPA’s claimed benefits under the new rule could lead to net costs, instead of net benefits.   

The oil and gas industry has the strongest record on greenhouse gas emissions in the world.  It leads in technological advancements, something Congress and EPA often overlook. U.S. companies have been at the forefront of efforts to improve the environmental footprint from the well to the marketplace. 

In recent years, oil and gas production has dramatically increased due to new discoveries and technological advances. At the same time, methane emissions have continued to decline. As the industry continues its rapid pace of innovation, these advances will continue – if the regulators stay out the way. 

It’s hard to innovate when federal regulators decide they know what’s best.   Yet the EPA pressed its analysis and proposed rule without vigorous scientific peer review.  Any regulation this costly to the nation,  with this many more questions than answers and with more “I can” than “I should” needs  – at a minimum – a much more thorough vetting. 

But the Agency moved with little warning and with all the haste it could muster in hopes of winning some plaudits at the French Global Warming sessions.  The comment period on the EPA’s rule is now closed – it’s all up to the bureaucracy to decide how to proceed with a proposed rule that is clearly and blatantly regulatory overreach. 

When an industry initiates and carries out actions that clean the environment economically, the nation benefits and so does the EPA.  It should recognize those benefits and seek to avoid excessive costs and bureaucratization.  This regulatory “policy” is unnecessary, excessive the wrongheaded.  Why not stand aside and let innovation succeed?

Rafuse is a former White House energy adviser and current principal of the Rafuse Organization, which advises on energy, international trade and national security..