Energy & Environment

Greens: Methane rules on existing drilling rigs should come next

Environmentalists are pushing regulators to institute methane controls on existing oil and gas drilling sites now that they have finalized regulations on new drillers. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday finalized rules on methane emissions from new and modified oil and gas drilling sites. 

{mosads}Agency officials also kicked off the process of writing rules for existing drillers, which account for up to 10 million tons of methane emissions each year.

“This is the biggest part of the problem,” said Jeremy Symons, the Associate Vice President for Climate Political Affairs at the Environmental Defense Fund. “The job isn’t done and more needs to be done in the months and years ahead.” 

Andres Restrepo, a lawyer for the Sierra Club, said the EPA has a legal obligation to write existing well regulations after it implements the new well rules. 

“It’s important to understand that today’s action is critical but it’s part of a larger legal structure that covers the entire suite of sources, both new and existing in the oil and gas industry,” he said.

Writing rules for existing wells will take a long time. The EPA is asking drillers to provide regulators with technical and cost information about how to cut down on methane leaks. 

That information gathering process will take place this fall, and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the agency won’t have a final rule done until next year, after President Obama leaves office.

“We’re going to move as quickly as we can to get the most comprehensive record we can available to us that the next administration to rely on,” she said on Thursday.

Issuing rules for existing wells is critical for President Obama’s methane goals, which are a major part of the administration’s overall climate change agenda. The EPA announced this spring that it would eventually regulate methane at existing drilling sites, and Canadian officials said they would do the same in their oil and gas sector. 

“Today’s the first step, and it triggers that additional action,” Restrepo said. “We’re going to continue to drive forward and encourage EPA as it continues on in that process to regulate existing sources.”

Tags Environmental Defense Fund Environmental Protection Agency gas Gina McCarthy Methane oil Sierra Club

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