Quantcast

EPA Finalizes Methane Emissions Rules, New Regs Fail to 'Stop Dangerous Methane Leaks From Existing Fracking Wells'

Energy

Following President Obama's promise to cut toxic methane leaks at oil and gas facilities, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday announced the U.S. government's "first-ever" set of standards to reduce such emissions—but the new regulations were decried by environmentalist critics as not far-reaching enough.

Aerial footage of the massive methane leak near the Porter Ranch neighborhood in Los Angeles in December 2015. Photo credit: Environmental Defense Fund

"EPA's methane regulations are a welcome first step, but contain too many loopholes to be a comprehensive check on industry recklessness," warned Greenpeace researcher Charlie Cray.

Moreover, noted Cray, methane "is the fastest growing source of climate pollution in the U.S. In the first 20 years after it's released, methane is more than 85 times more powerful than CO2 in fueling climate chaos."

Oil and gas facilities are "the largest industrial source of methane," noted environmental legal defense group Earthjustice.

The EPA said that these latest rules were part of the Obama Administration's efforts to live up to the president's vow to reduce methane emissions by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025.

"The methane rule is the final version of a draft regulation put forth last year by the Environmental Protection Agency," reports the New York Times, "and would require oil and gas companies to plug and capture leaks of methane from new and modified drilling wells and storage tanks, not older, existing wells."

The EPA is only just starting the information-gathering process to determine how to regulate existing wells, the agency says. Yet it is old, established fossil fuel infrastructure that is responsible for the vast majority of methane emissions in the U.S. and many environmentalists are irked that the new rules stop short of regulating those facilities.

"The only way to protect our communities from the risks of fracking and stave off the worst impacts of climate change, is to keep fossil fuels in the ground. This rule, which does nothing to stop dangerous methane leaks from existing fracking wells, was always wholly inadequate," said 350.org's executive director May Boeve.

"The vast majority of the problem lies in the oil and gas infrastructure that already exists across the country," wrote the Natural Resources Defense Council. "EPA must follow through on the President’s commitment to address these sources next and soon."

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders joined fellow environmentalists in calling for an overall ban on fracking, rather than simply seeking to reduce methane leaks at fracking facilities:

EPA head Gina McCarthy defended the agency's rules from such criticism: "The commonsense steps we're rolling out today will help combat climate change and reduce air pollution that immediately harms public health," McCarthy told reporters on a conference call, according to Bloomberg. McCarthy characterized the new regulations as a "critical first step in tackling methane emissions from existing oil and gas sources."

The new regulations are a tougher version of those first proposed last year. The standards were updated in response to nearly 900,000 comments critiquing the original version released in August 2015, the EPA said.

The problem of methane leaks from fracking facilities was brought to harsh light in October, when a disastrous leak near Los Angeles' Porter Ranch neighborhood started spewing tens of thousands of kilograms of the toxic gas into the air every hour—an catastrophic event that lasted for months on end.

Despite such disasters, the fossil fuel industry defended its record on combating methane leaks and complained that the EPA's regulations were too strict.

"Overly prescriptive regulations that limit energy access will only make manufacturers less competitive and send investments and jobs to countries with less stringent environmental protections related to energy and greenhouse gases," said the National Association of Manufacturers in a press statement.

Earthjustice promised to defend the EPA's regulations from the fossil fuel industry's expected legal assault on the new rules.

"Earthjustice will defend this rule in court when the oil and gas industry tries to weaken it," the organization declared. "It's past time for oil and gas companies to embrace best practices that could make the difference between catastrophic climate change and a secure future on a livable planet."

New Fracking Study Finds Children at Greater Risk of Respiratory Health Problems

Big Oil Abandons the Arctic, Obama Under Pressure to Do More to Protect the Region

The Heartland of America is ‘100% Clean Energy Ready’

4 Reasons Why It’s Time to Break Free

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Luis Alfonso de Alba Gongora, the UN secretary-general's special envoy for the climate summit speaks at The World Economic Forum holds the Sustainable Development Impact Summit 2018 in New York on Sept. 24, 2018. Ben Hider / World Economic Forum

By Howard LaFranchi

When United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres decided to hold a high-level climate summit in conjunction with this year's General Assembly kicking off next week, he was well aware of the paradox of his initiative.

Read More Show Less
Acting U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan meets with Guatemalan farmers on May 29 in Santa Rosa, Guatemala. John Moore / Getty Images

The Trump administration ignored its own evidence on how climate change is impacting migration and food security when setting new policies for cutting aid to Central America, NBC reports.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Mike Pence brought the first motorcade to Mackinac Island on Saturday. Cars have been banned on the island since 1898. 13 ON YOUR SIDE / YouTube screenshot

Vice President Mike Pence sparked outrage on social media Saturday when he traveled in the first-ever motorcade to drive down the streets of Michigan's car-free Mackinac Island, HuffPost reported.

Read More Show Less
Inhaling from an electronic cigarette. 6okean / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Shawn Radcliffe

  • As illnesses and deaths linked to vaping continue to rise, health officials urge people to stop using e-cigarettes.
  • Officials report 8 deaths have been linked to lung illnesses related to vaping.
  • Vitamin E acetate is one compound officials are investigating as a potential cause for the outbreak.
The number of vaping-related illnesses has grown to 530 cases in 38 states and 1 U.S. territory, federal health officials reported.
Read More Show Less
Activist Greta Thunberg leads the Youth Climate Strike on Sept. 20, 2019 in New York City. Roy Rochlin / WireImage / Getty Images

By Julia Conley

As organizers behind Friday's Global Climate Strike reported that four million children and adults attended marches and rallies all over the world — making it the biggest climate protest ever — they assured leaders who have been reticent to take bold climate action that the campaigners' work is far from over.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Summer has officially come to an end. Luckily, EcoWatch is here to keep its memory alive by sharing the winners of our "Best of Summer" photo contest.

Read More Show Less
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at a news conference at UN headquarters on Sept. 18. Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Today is the United Nations Climate Action Summit, a gathering called by UN Secretary General António Guterres to encourage climate action ahead of 2020, the year when countries are due to up their pledges under the Paris agreement.

Read More Show Less
A vegan diet can improve your health, but experts say it's important to keep track of nutrients and protein. Getty Images

By Dan Gray

  • Research shows that 16 weeks of a vegan diet can boost the gut microbiome, helping with weight loss and overall health.
  • A healthy microbiome is a diverse microbiome. A plant-based diet is the best way to achieve this.
  • It isn't necessary to opt for a strictly vegan diet, but it's beneficial to limit meat intake.

New research shows that following a vegan diet for about 4 months can boost your gut microbiome. In turn, that can lead to improvements in body weight and blood sugar management.

Read More Show Less