EPA plans to apply greenhouse gas reporting rules to oil, gas production

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to expand its first-ever greenhouse-gas reporting requirements to include oil and gas production and related activities.

The proposal could lead to eventual regulations aimed at reducing emissions of such gases.

Rick Matar, air quality practice manager for Williams, the leading natural gas producer in western Colorado’s Piceance Basin, said the industry will be spending “quite a bit of money” simply to comply with the reporting requirement.

“Will this have any impact on climate change? I say no. Is the regulation necessary? I don’t think so as an industry person,” Matar said.

The EPA says the industry’s greenhouse-gas emissions are the second-largest source of human-made methane emissions in the United States. Pound for pound, methane is more than 20 times as effective as carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere, the agency says. But Matar said humans are responsible for only 3.4 percent of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, and the EPA believes the oil and gas industry accounts for only 5 percent of that.

Jeremy Nichols is climate and energy program director for the WildEarth Guardians environmental group. He said it makes sense to get a better understanding of how much of a potent greenhouse gas is being released, so decisions can be made on where to seek reductions without wasting money or imposing unreasonable burdens.

“I would think industry would want to embrace this,” he said.

The EPA finalized its new reporting requirements for greenhouse gas emissions in October, applying them to some 30 industries. The requirements applied to large oil and gas combustion sources such as gas plants and refineries, but the EPA delayed action on more widespread requirements on that industry pending further review.

Its newly proposed requirements for the industry would apply to all production, transmission, processing and other facilities exceeding certain emissions thresholds.

Doug Hock, spokesman for EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc., said he didn’t think his company has evaluated the new EPA proposal, but it already is tracking its greenhouse gas and other airborne emissions. It has spent $21.5 million to reduce those emissions in the state, including $17 million to use electric-powered gas compressor stations in the Piceance Basin.

He said reducing methane leaks, such as from valves and pipelines, is in the company’s interest because that is methane it can be selling instead.

Williams also has worked to capture more methane that used to go to waste, such as by adopting “green” well completions, so no methane has to be burned off by flaring during completions.


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