EPA’s 2016 agenda focused on methane, carbon emissions

EPA’s 2016 agenda focused on methane, carbon emissions
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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyOvernight Energy: Critics accuse Interior's top lawyer of misleading Congress | Boaty McBoatface makes key climate change discovery | Outrage over Trump's order to trim science advisory panels Trump's order to trim science advisory panels sparks outrage Overnight Energy: Trump order to trim science panels sparks outrage | Greens ask watchdog to investigate Interior's records policies | EPA to allow use of pesticide harmful to bees MORE will go to Ottawa this week for discussions on U.S.-Canadian climate change strategies, one of the many issues on the EPA’s to-do list between now and the end of the Obama administration. 

McCarthy outlined her agenda during a meeting with reporters Tuesday, focusing on implementing existing Obama-era regulations, finalizing others and expanding her focus on international issues before Obama leaves office in January. 

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The EPA is set to finalize a rule on methane leaks from new oil and gas drilling sites “this spring,” McCarthy said. The agency proposed the rule last summer as part of Obama’s goal to slash methane emissions by up to 45 percent from 2012 levels over the next decade. 

The EPA is also working on a methane rule for existing wells, and McCarthy said the agency is in the “final stages” of work on an Information Collection Request for that regulation — the first step in the rulemaking process where drillers provide information on methane leaks to the EPA. 

“That is a very large signal about our commitment to move toward regulating the existing sources, in the oil and gas sector, of methane,” she told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor event.

Given the constricted timeline facing the EPA, that rule might not get done before Obama leaves office, but McCarthy said she’s confident work on others will finish soon. 

“Those regulations will be coming out, as we indicated, in spring and early summer for most of the rules we’ve been talking about,” she said. “Our intent is to move expeditiously to get these rules out, but we’re not going to cut corners in terms of appropriate reviews and public comment on any of these.”

McCarthy said the agency is also working with states that are moving forward with compliance plans under the EPA’s climate rule for power plants. The Supreme Court halted implementation of that rule in February, and Republicans have said states should stop work on their planning until legal challenges against the rule run their course. 

Several state officials, though, have said they are continuing their work on carbon reduction plans under the rule, and McCarthy said the EPA is helping.

“From my perspective, the conversations have always been robust on the Clean Power Plan since before we even started it, and there is no waning on that robustness,” she said. 

McCarthy is also working with international regulators on a host of issues, including reducing the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a refrigerant chemical. Last fall, the agency said it will reach an international deal on HFCs sometime in 2016. 

McCarthy’s trip to Ottawa, she said, will focus on environmental cooperation between the U.S. and Canada. 

Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have agreed to work together on climate change. McCarthy said she will be looking for a path forward on issues like HFCs, vehicle emissions and oil and gas regulations.

“We know that we have real kindred spirits in Canada right now, and a tremendous interest, from Prime Minister Trudeau and President Obama, to really work together as North America to try to work together on this issue,” she said.