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The EPA Aims to Reduce Methane Output by 2025

Aug 20, 2015 01:26 PM EDT

In an attempt to curb methane emissions from oil and gas development, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed the nation's first regulations on emissions of that gas. Compared to 2012 levels, the EPA aims to reduce the nation's oil and gas sector methane output by up to 30% by 2025, according to a release.

The regulations target methane and smog-forming volatile organic compounds, which are produced by oil and gas drilling operations. They also aim to reduce emissions from new and modified facilities that collect, transport and store oil and gas. The proposal follows 2012 rules, which limit toxic pollutant emissions and VOCs produced by extracting natural gas through hydraulic fracturing, as this article in Nature noted.

However, with these new proposals, President Barack Obama has a more ambitious goal of reducing the sector's methane output by 40-45% by 2025. The Obama administration will continue to seek opportunities to cut methane emissions, said Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator of EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, who also explained that last week, for example, the EPA proposed rules that are intended to curb the release of methane from landfills, the article noted.

This new proposal set forth by the EPA was released the same day that a recent study suggested that the U.S. natural gas sector emits substantially more methane than previously thought. In their study, it was estimated that gathering, processing and distributing natural gas releases 2.4 million tonnes of methane each year. Their research was published in Environmental Science and Technology.

In that study, researchers used tracer gases to monitor methane emissions at 114 natural-gas gathering facilities and 16 processing plants, as the report noted.

"The issue really is existing sources," Mark Brownstein, said in the article. "It's clear that there's a need to do more." Brownstein is vice-president of climate and energy at the Environmental Defense Fund, an advocacy group that funded the study along with industry partners.

However, Brownstein adds that the EPA proposal would only apply to new or modified gathering facilities. This excludes many sites that are now operating, as the article noted.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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