Utah oil and gas producers push back against new federal methane emissions rule

The Biden administration revealed the Environmental Protection Agency’s new methane standards for the oil and gas industry at the COP28 climate change conference. The rule aims to significantly reduce methane emissions from the industry, a move that has been met with some resistance from Utah’s oil and gas companies.

Utah’s oil and gas companies argue that they are already taking voluntary steps to reduce emissions and that the new federal requirements will be challenging to adhere to in the rural Uinta Basin. Rikki Hrenko-Browning, president of the Utah Petroleum Association, emphasized the industry’s efforts to improve air quality while maintaining a thriving oil and gas sector.

The EPA claims that the new rule will remove 58 million tons of methane emissions from the atmosphere between 2024 and 2038. Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is the main component of natural gas and is a significant contributor to climate change. The oil and natural gas industry is the largest industrial methane emitter in the United States, accounting for a third of the nation’s emissions.

The new rule specifically targets leaks, requiring companies to use new Technology to monitor production sites and ensure proper plugging of wells to prevent emissions. It also addresses flaring, with a phased plan to reduce and ultimately eliminate flaring at new well sites.

However, the oil and gas industry in Utah has expressed concerns about the limited natural gas off-take capacity in the Uinta Basin and the difficulties in permitting natural gas pipelines. Industry representatives anticipate complex and litigious permitting processes and logistical challenges in adhering to the new requirements.

Interestingly, this new rule follows the EPA’s proposal to update its previous methane emissions rule with improved standards and requirements for oil and natural gas facilities in November last year. The agency reviewed over 1 million public comments during the finalization of the new rule.

Nini Gu, from the Environmental Defense Fund’s methane program, commended the new rule as a bold step in addressing the country’s climate change crisis and promoting Health benefits. The EPA reports that the new standards will also eliminate 16 million tons of volatile organic compound emissions from 2024 to 2038.

Overall, the new methane standards are a significant development in the regulation of the oil and gas industry, with potential implications for both environmental conservation and industry operations.

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