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Shale-rich Colorado welcomes EPA methane proposals

Industry questions why stronger measures are needed with emissions down from 2005 levels.

By
Daniel J. Graeber
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper says EPA proposals for methane emissions for the oil and gas industry model rules on the books for shale companies working in his state. File Photo by UPI/Mike Theiler
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper says EPA proposals for methane emissions for the oil and gas industry model rules on the books for shale companies working in his state. File Photo by UPI/Mike Theiler | License Photo

DENVER, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- The proposal to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas industry models Western state shale rules is already on the books, Colorado's governor said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency called for the first-ever mandates regarding methane emissions generated by the oil and gas industry. Over the next decade, the industry would need to cut methane emissions by at least 40 percent from their 2012 levels.

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"We are underscoring our commitment to reducing the pollution fueling climate change and protecting public health while supporting responsible energy development, transparency and accountability," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement.

The EPA described methane as the second-most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted from human activities in the United States, with as much as 30 percent of those emissions coming from the oil and gas sector.

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John Hickenlooper, governor of emerging shale state Colorado, said the federal proposals would complement steps his state has taken already to find a balance between a strong oil and gas industry and environmental stewardship.

"Colorado is a model demonstrating the success that can come from collaboration and hard work," the governor said in a statement. "As a result of tough discussions between industry leaders, the environmental community, and other relevant stakeholders, we became the first state in the country over a year ago to directly regulate methane emissions."

Colorado measures were among the first of their kind in the nation.

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Oil from Colorado accounts for one out of every 50 barrels produced in the United States and output is on the rise because of operations in the state's Niobrara shale basin. The state is home to nine of the largest 100 natural gas fields in the country.

The state Air Quality Control Commission last year required the oil and gas industry to address methane emissions and install technology necessary to capture other air pollutants. The American Petroleum Institute, which last year welcomed Hickenlooper's initiatives, criticized the EPA's proposal as a handicap on the industry at a time when low crude oil prices are hurting revenues.

API President and Chief Executive Officer Jack Gerard said methane emissions are down already by 79 percent from 2005.

"The last thing we need is more duplicative and costly regulation that could increase the cost of energy for Americans," he said in a statement.

API estimates Colorado, with an average natural gas production rate of 4.45 billion cubic feet per day, would rank No. 19 in the world in terms of production, outpacing Venezuela, and is already a Top 10 domestic producer.

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