U.S. EPA's pollution-cutting oil and gas rule will help cut emissions of a potent greenhouse gas without regulating it directly, say clean air advocates.
EPA released a final rule yesterday that requires new hydraulically fractured gas wells to use technology that will cut toxic substances and smog-forming pollution by 2015. As a co-benefit, the upgrades will also reduce methane -- a greenhouse gas with 30 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide -- by up to 1.7 million tons, said EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation Gina McCarthy.
When it comes to cutting methane emissions from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, wells, "[EPA] isn't aware of any other technologies that are effective as this rulemaking," McCarthy said.
"The standards are practical, flexible, affordable and achievable," she said.
The New Source Performance Standards will mandate that all new wells install "green" completions, technology that separates gas from liquid hydrocarbons from the flowback of wells to cut pollution. Well operators could also flare, or burn, waste gas instead of releasing it directly into the atmosphere.
But because methane is only a co-benefit, it is not an enforceable requirement, said Stuart Ross, communications director for the Clean Air Task Force.
"We know there's a lot more that can be done for methane," he said.