EPA Finalizes Methane Rule for New Gas and Oil Production

The Environmental Protection Agency on 12th May released its final rule for regulating methane emissions from new oil and gas production.  The agency also announced that it was taking the first steps toward writing a methane rule for existing oil and gas production.

The EPA press release quotes Administrator Gina McCarthy: “Today, we are underscoring the Administration’s commitment to finding commonsense ways to cut methane—a potent greenhouse gas fueling climate change—and other harmful pollution from the oil and gas sector.  Together these new actions will protect public health and reduce pollution linked to cancer and other serious health effects while allowing industry to continue to grow and provide a vital source of energy for Americans across the country.”  It should be recalled that McCarthy regularly describes the EPA’s greenhouse gas rules for power plants as “commonsense” regulation.     

The purpose of the rule is not to reduce manmade methane emissions, which have been declining without regulation.  Methane, the principal gas in natural gas, is produced in large quantities naturally by decaying vegetation in water-logged soils.  If the EPA really thought it necessary to reduce atmospheric methane levels in order to stop global warming, then the EPA would be pushing for filling in swamps, marshes, and other wetlands.  Substantial reductions could be achieved inexpensively, and there would be significant co-benefits, such as reducing mosquito populations. 

The real purpose of the methane rule is to raise the costs of producing natural gas and oil.  The EPA estimates that the rule will add $530 million in annual production costs by 2025, according to Bloomberg News.  That’s $100 to 200 million more than the preliminary version of the rule released last year.  But the EPA estimates that the rule will avert $690 million annually in damages caused by climate change by 2025.  The costs of the rule are almost certainly underestimated, but since the rule will have an infinitesimal impact on global greenhouse gas emissions, the benefits are fantasy.  It always amuses me to think that bureaucrats are paid high salaries to dream up this stuff.