EPA sets standards to cut methane; Let's make BLM rule final!

Methane flare in Pawnee National Grassland, Colorado.

Photo: Mason Cummings/TWS

On May 12, The Environmental Protection Agency issued the first federal standards to help stop methane pollution from new oil and gas production across the country.

The announcement is part of several measures the Obama administration is taking to cut methane emissions by 40 to 45 percent by 2025 to meet climate change reduction goals.

The EPA standards aim to cut methane leaks and reduce venting in oil and gas infrastructure and production across the nation. This is important because methane is a potent greenhouse gas up to 84 more times harmful to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

The Wilderness Society supports the EPA standards, but more is needed to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. Specifically, we need strong standards to help cut methane from all oil and gas facilities—not just new ones.

We can make a big impact on those emissions by strengthening and finalizing a proposed methane rule for oil and gas on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

The Roan Plateau in Colorado is one example of where we need to better regulate methane emissions on public lands. Credit: Ecoflight, flickr.

Oil and gas production on public lands responsible for at least one-fifth of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, playing a large role in climate change. Unlike the EPA standards, the BLM rule will also curb emissions from existing sources—wells already in production—that are a significant source of methane pollution. This is crucial, since by 2018, it is estimated that nearly 90 percent of methane emissions will come from sources that existed in 2011.

Strengthening and finalizing the BLM rule will help stop methane pollution from all sources on our public lands would make a significant impact on reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and reaching the Obama administration’s 2025 climate goals. This spring, more than 200,000 members of the public stood up in support of the BLM rule. The BLM will be finalizing its methane rule sometime later this year.

Besides meeting climate targets, a strong BLM rule will help prevent the waste of natural resources, with the added benefits of capturing otherwise lost revenue for local communities and improving public health.

With oil and gas production recently announced as the highest source of methane emissions in the U.S., guidelines from both the EPA and BLM are critical to modernizing energy development and regulating this potent greenhouse gas.