Pennsylvania

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EPA boosts rules for methane reporting by oil and gas producers

Workers at a frack site in Harford Township, Pa. Under new EPA rules, gas drillers will have to step up their measurements and reporting of methane leaks.

Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY

Workers at a frack site in Harford Township, Pa. Under new EPA rules, gas drillers will have to step up their measurements and reporting of methane leaks.

The Environmental Protection Agency has moved to require oil and gas operators to improve how they measure methane leaks. Climate scientists and environmentalists increasingly worry about the warming aspects of methane. Although carbon dioxide has been the focus in the fight against global warming, methane is actually more potent in the short run. And as drilling for oil and gas continues in places like Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, more methane escapes. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told a room full of Wharton students on Friday that fracking operations don’t have to exacerbate global warming.

“And it’s about using some tremendously creative new technologies that actually allow us remotely to look at all this work that is going on across the U.S.,” said McCarthy, “And figure out where those leaks are, where those releases are, and how best to change our operations to get at a significant source of carbon pollution.”

McCarthy spoke at the Wharton Energy Conference at the Union League in Center City Philadelphia, where she urged support for Obama’s climate change action plan. The new rules would allow EPA to gauge how much methane escapes from oil and gas drill sites.

“This is about best management practices, this is about proper construction of a well,” said McCarthy. “I read about that when I was 24. We’ve learned those lessons, we can do this.” 

But some say the EPA has not gone far enough. The Environmental Defense Fund says the EPA should take action to plug the leaks.

“These important reporting requirements are not a substitute for action to reduce emissions,” said EDF senior attorney Peter Zalzal in a release. “It is critical that EPA move ahead with commonsense clean air measures to reduce methane emissions from the nation’s largest industrial source and to protect the health of our communities.”
EDF says methane is more than 80 times more damaging to the climate than carbon dioxide in the short-term, and effective carbon reductions can occur quickly with new methane rules.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy also urged the aspiring energy leaders to look to the money-making benefits of low-carbon fuel.

“Because we will gain a significant competitive advantage domestically and internationally if we figure out how to make the U.S. the leader in this effort,” she said.

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