New oil and gas regulations misguided, counterproductive

6-1By Howard Feldman

More than a dozen states, including North Dakota, have now filed a lawsuit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) latest rule for new oil and natural gas sources. The American Petroleum Institute (API), as well as a number of state associations, is also taking action to prevent the duplicative and potentially costly regulations from moving forward.

Methane emissions from natural gas production are already falling, even as production has soared.  Both before and after the EPA moved the goalposts for measuring emissions, the trajectory shows progress. The latest Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks showed that from 1990 until 2014, methane emissions from natural gas systems declined by 15 percent, while natural gas production increased by 47 percent. Emissions are headed in the right direction: down.

And there’s every reason to expect that progress will continue under industry leadership and current regulations. Cutting methane is good for the environment and good for business. As the primary component of natural gas, the oil and natural gas industry already has every incentive to capture as much methane as possible for delivery to customers.

Industry innovations are key to progress. We’re spending more than ever on reducing emissions, including the green completions the industry invented to capture methane emissions, which are now required by EPA for all new wells. Methane reduction technology is just one component of industry’s commitment to emissions reductions, which includes $90 billion of investments in zero- and low-carbon technologies from 2000 to 2014 – more than twice the next largest industry sector (at $38 billion) and almost as much as the federal government (at $110 billion).

Adding new regulations on top of the existing, successful system is more than just unnecessary; it risks undermining progress. The United States has cut carbon emissions more than any nation on earth – while also leading the world in oil and natural gas production. Our success in reducing carbon emissions to levels not seen since the 1990s is largely due to increased use of clean-burning natural gas for power generation. Imposing new regulations could raise operating costs, jeopardizing natural gas production and all the economic benefits and emissions reductions that go with it.

The shale energy revolution has reduced consumer costs, generated significant emissions reductions and bolstered our national security. Those benefits are too valuable to risk through EPA’s regulatory overreach. Market-based solutions are already working to reduce methane emissions.

Howard Felman is the senior director of regulatory and scientific affairs for the American Petroleum Institute.

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