Methane pollution from the oil and gas sector is accelerating the pace of the climate crisis, harming the health of our families and communities, and worsening historic environmental injustices — and it is a problem that is only getting worse.
Methane emissions from oil and gas operations are projected to exceed 12 million metric tons in 2025, causing as much near-term warming as 260 coal-fired power plants. Currently, more than 17.3 million people, including 3.9 million children under 18 reside within a half mile health threat radius of active oil and gas production operations.
As each day goes by without critical protections in place, emissions at oil and gas sites continue to jeopardize the health and safety of workers and the communities living closest to development.
Thankfully, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed an updated draft rule to cut methane and other harmful pollutants from oil and gas operations across the country. This proposal is an important step forward in addressing the climate crisis, protecting the health and safety of communities across the country, and prioritizing the creation of quality, family-sustaining jobs.
However, in order to ensure that these safeguards benefit the most people, address climate change, protect public health, and create new jobs, the final EPA methane rule must:
Key Measure 1:
Maintain the leak detection and repair (LDAR) standards that require routine inspections using gas imaging cameras at all wells with equipment known to malfunction, such as tanks and flares.* EPA’s approach moves away from production-based LDAR requirements, which means that facilities with malfunction-prone equipment, including low-producing wells which are responsible for half of all site-level methane emissions nationwide, will be required to routinely inspect for leaks. Leaks are the largest source of methane pollution in the oil and gas sector.
Key Measure 2:
Ensure that operators at wells capture associated gas and limit flaring of that gas in instances in which it is necessary for safety or maintenance reasons and where it is a physical impossibility to otherwise capture the gas.
Key Measure 3:
Maintain zero-emitting pneumatic equipment requirements for pneumatic controllers and pumps. These devices are the second-largest source of methane within the oil and gas sector. *
Key Measure 4:
Strengthen the standards to address emissions from storage tanks by making the standards applicable to more tanks. By lowering the threshold that determines which tanks are covered by the rule, EPA could address the pollution from more tanks thereby better protecting more communities.
Key Measure 5:
Provide a clear pathway for communities and individuals to participate and engage in the Super Emitter Response Program – which is designed to quickly address very large leaks from the oil and gas industry – by ensuring that approved monitoring technologies and data are accessible to all.
Key Measure 6:
Maintain the requirement that abandoned wells are subject to inspections until closure and that oil and gas companies submit a closure plan and conduct a post-closure survey of these wells to ensure they are not leaking.*
* These provisions are included in the supplemental draft rule released in November, 2022.