Energy, Special Topics in Environmental Management

Is There Now a ‘War on Gas’?

In a September 15, 2016, hearing of the House Environment Subcommittee, Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), the subcommittee chair, modified for a new purpose the “war on coal” tagline supporters of the mining and energy industries have used to characterize the Obama administration’s coal-related environmental regulations. According to Bridenstine, the administration is now also engaging in a “war on gas” through recent and planned rules to control emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particularly methane from oil and gas (O&G) production wells and associated equipment.

Methane is the main component of natural gas. Many of the administration’s actions relating to O&G methane emissions were outlined in the White House’s March 2014 Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions. In that document, the White House recognized that use in the United States of natural gas in manufacturing, transportation, and power generation is a “vital sector of our economy,” an encomium the administration is not likely to apply to coal. But the strategy is more concerned that methane caused by human activities in the United States comprised nine percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2012. Natural gas systems account for 23 percent of all anthropogenic methane emissions. Accordingly, in January 2015, the administration announced a goal of cutting methane emissions from the O&G sector by 40 percent to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025 and also announced plans for actions to put the United States on a path to achieve this ambitious goal.

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