Obama considers new climate regulations for oil, gas sector
Recent studies have found that U.S. methane emissions have been higher than estimated by the EPA. A study led by Stanford University last month said emissions of the gas from the U.S. natural gas supply chain were nearly two times higher than current estimates.
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), an advocacy group, said the administration could look to Colorado's tough new rules to limit air pollution from oil and gas drilling as a model.
The rules, approved in February, emerged from a deal struck between the EDF and energy producers Anadarko Petroleum, Noble Energy, and Encana Corp.
"We know from the information that's out there that what the EPA will find is there are abundant opportunities to deal with this problem right now with technologies that are at hand and inexpensive to implement for the oil and gas industry," said Jeremy Symons, the EDF's senior director for climate policy, on a conference call with reporters.
The EPA in coming months will issue a series of "white papers" to look at the technology and evaluate its options, determining later this year whether regulations are needed.
The Clean Air Task Force, a health and environmental group, said it was cautiously optimistic more regulations were in store.
"We applaud this strategy as a good first step by the administration, but it doesn't commit them to reaching the end of that road," said Conrad Schneider, advocacy director for the group.
The American Petroleum Institute said it expects the EPA will find that additional regulations are not required.
By January 2015, natural gas wells will be required by existing EPA regulations to use technology to reduce air pollution, including methane emissions, Howard Feldman, the lobby group's director of regulatory and scientific affairs, said in a telephone interview.
As the United States enjoys a boom in natural gas production many power plants have switched to the fuel, which releases half as much carbon dioxide as coal when burned.
"Somewhere that's gotten lost," Feldman said.