EPA chief: Methane regs will allow ‘sustainable’ fossil fuel use

EPA chief: Methane regs will allow ‘sustainable’ fossil fuel use

New rules regulating methane emissions from the oil and gas sector will help facilitate more "sustainable" fossil fuel development, President Obama’s top environmental regulator said Thursday. 

Speaking in Ottawa alongside Canadian officials, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyOvernight Energy & Environment — White House announces new climate office New White House office to develop climate change policies Kerry: Climate summit 'bigger, more engaged, more urgent' than in past MORE said rules cutting down on leaks at oil and gas production sites will help the climate and preserve fossil fuels as a viable source of energy in the future.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Moving on [methane] will reaffirm our leadership on climate. It also will happen to make sure that our ability to continue to rely on fossil fuel will be done in a way that is sustainable, as well,” she said in a speech. 

“When you leak methane you are highly inefficient, not just highly polluting. We have to get the methane out of the system. We’re going to do it together, and we’re doing to do it on oil and gas.”

The Obama administration is looking to cut methane emissions by up to 45 percent from 2012 levels over the next decade, with a new EPA rule restricting emissions at new oil and gas wells due out this spring. Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed last month to work on rules cutting emissions from existing wells in the future, too. 

The gas industry is wary of the regulations. Drillers have an incentive to cut down on methane leaks on their own, officials say, because it would allow them to deliver more natural gas to the market. 

The low price of natural gas — of which methane is the chief component — has made it an attractive alternative to coal for electric utilities. The fuel is cleaner burning than coal, as well, but methane leaked directly into the atmosphere has about 25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, making it a powerful greenhouse gas. 

Some environmental advocates — including Democratic presidential candidate Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Health Care — Presented by March of Dimes — Abortion access for 65M women at stake Hospitals in underserved communities face huge cuts in reckless 'Build Back Better' plan Sanders urges Biden to delay Medicare premium hike linked to Alzheimer's drug MORE — have embraced the so-called keep it in the ground movement as a way to stop fossil fuel development in the future. But McCarthy’s statement Thursday reinforces signals from other senior Obama officials that the administration doesn’t buy into that push. 

McCarthy was in Canada to tout the recent announcement between Obama and Trudeau to work together on climate-related issues. She said the two countries “have a stronger relationship than ever before” on climate, something echoed by her Canadian counterpart, environment and climate change minister Catherine McKenna. 

“We’re very lucky to have such a great partner in the United States,” McKenna said. 

“There is a sense that we need to work very hard and look at all the bilateral tools. When we talk about methane, we are discussing how we can expand that to Mexico and how we can expand that globally.”