The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) welcomes the release today of the Obama administration’s proposed rule to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. The announcement follows the White House’s pledge earlier this year to cut methane emissions from the sector 40 to 45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025. In the proposed rule, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set draft standards for methane emissions from new and modified production, processing, and transmission facilities in the oil and gas sector. The draft standards for existing sources of methane emissions, however, are voluntary.

According to EESI Executive Director Carol Werner, “Cutting methane emissions is essential if we are to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius. Methane leaks pose grave safety and health risks, and represent an economic loss. The proposed rule is even more important in the wake of the recently finalized Clean Power Plan, since the Plan will lead to greater reliance on natural gas. Limiting leakage of methane, the primary component of natural gas, is critical to increasing the Plan’s climate benefit. But this must be only a first step. Methane leaks from existing infrastructure are a very serious problem and must be addressed.”

Methane is a powerful climate-warming pollutant—at least 84 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over the first 20 years after emission. Reducing methane emissions can help slow the rate of warming substantially in the near term. There are many sources of methane, but the oil and gas sector is one of the largest, representing nearly 30 percent of all methane emissions. There are serious leakages throughout the entire oil and gas production and pipeline distribution infrastructure. But in many cases, investing in the equipment and practices necessary to detect and reduce leakage can actually lead to cost savings. Reducing leakages would also lead to safer operations and better public safety, as methane is particularly flammable and can cause explosions.