The US Environmental Protection Agency will "immediately" take the first formal step to limit methane emissions from existing O&G wells, the White House announced Thursday morning.
The move follows the Obama administration's rule proposed last year for emissions reductions from new O&G wells, and a rule earlier this year aimed at reducing methane emissions from O&G drilling on federal land.
Thursday's announcement was made in the context of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's first visit to the White House since assuming office in November. The leaders said the two countries would work together to realize a variety of climate change aims.
The two leaders released the statement, "U.S.-Canada Joint Statement on Climate, Energy, and Arctic Leadership," which unveiled proposed coordinated action on climate change.
According to the statement, the US and Canada commit to reducing methane emissions by 40-45% below 2012 levels by 2025 from the O&G sector, and explore new opportunities for further methane reductions. Obama and Trudeau also invited other countries to pursue that objective or develop their own methane reduction target.
The US O&G industry were quick to respond to Thursday's announcement. "Even as oil and natural gas production has risen dramatically, methane emissions have fallen, thanks to industry leadership and investment in new technologies," Kyle Isakower, a vice president at the American Petroleum Institute, said. "These industry-led efforts are a proven way to reduce methane emissions from existing sources, and they are clearly working."
“Let's not forget that the safe and responsible development of energy from shale has helped the U.S. cut CO2 emissions to near 20-year lows. The last thing we need is more duplicative and costly regulations that could increase the cost of energy for Americans and that could potentially drive up greenhouse gas emissions," he added.
The EPA says the O&G sector's methane emissions make up nearly 30% of all methane emissions in the country. Methane emissions from O&G production have fallen approximately 15% from 2005 through 2012, according to the EPA. This despite the rise in production.
The US and Canada both committed to the following per the statement:
- The US EPA will "immediately" begin to develop regulations for methane emissions from existing O&G resources. In April, the agency will initiate a formal process to require companies operating existing methane emissions sources to provide information to assist in development of comprehensive standards to reduce methane emissions.
- Canada's environmental agency will move "as expeditiously as possible" to enact national regulations in collaboration with provinces/territories, Indigenous Peoples and stakeholders. Environment and Climate Change Canada intends to publish an initial phase of proposed regulations by early 2017.
- Building on the U.S.-Canada Air Quality Agreement, both countries will work together on programs, policies, and strategies, and share experiences on reducing oil and gas methane emissions as they enact their respective federal regulations, beginning this year.
- Both countries will collaborate to improve methane data collection and emissions quantification, and transparency of emissions reporting in North America, and share knowledge of cost-effective methane reduction technologies and practices.
- Both countries will commit to jointly endorse the World Bank’s Zero Routine Flaring by 2030 Initiative, and report annually on progress.