Regulators Gonna Regulate – and Regulate

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted March 10, 2016

When EPA announced a push for additional regulation on methane emissions from new oil and natural gas operations late last year, we said it looked like a solution in search of a problem – especially considering the agency’s own data showing that since 2005 methane emissions from hydraulically fractured natural gas wells had fallen 79 percent.

Regulators gonna regulate. And then regulate some more.

With the Obama administration’s announcement that it wants to regulate methane emissions from existing oil and gas sources – again, where remarkable reductions already are happening – shows EPA and the White House much more concerned about extreme agendas than the needs of American consumers. Kyle Isakower, API vice president of regulatory and economic policy, discussed the new proposal during a conference call with reporters:

“President Obama’s plans to add costly new regulations on methane when emissions are already falling could harm America’s shale energy revolution that has lowered energy costs for American consumers by $700 a year at the pump and $1200 annually in home utility bills. Additional regulations on methane by the administration could discourage the shale energy revolution that has helped America lead the world in reducing emissions while significantly lowering the costs of energy to consumers.”

Isakower said at a time when oil and natural gas production has risen dramatically, methane emissions have fallen because of industry leadership, investment in new technologies and incentives to capture as much methane as possible for delivery to consumers:

API natural gas output and methane from output

Isakower:

“Emissions will continue to fall as operators innovate and find new ways to capture and deliver more methane to consumers to heat homes and generate [low-emission] electricity. These industry-led efforts are a proven way to reduce methane emissions from existing sources, and they are clearly working.”

Instead of acknowledging this progress, the administration’s piling on of new regulation could hinder domestic natural gas production, potentially reducing supply and natural gas use that has played a leading role in reducing U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide to near 20-year lows. Howard Feldman, senior director of regulatory and scientific affairs also joined the call:

“We do know that potentially … it could have significant cost, impact operators’ ability to continue to operate those wells, lead to shut-ins, reducing supply … We understand how that could seriously impact consumers further down the chain. … Our industry, the wells turn over with time. The sources don’t last forever, so we have a lot of new sources that are already regulated. We do not need additional regulation on existing sources.”

Yet, regulators gonna regulate. Feldman:

“States are regulating, EPA wants to regulate, BLM wants to regulate, and yet industry is [reducing] emissions on its own. We really don’t need this pile-on of regulations on the industry. … We have a lot of companies that are members of Natural Gas Star, the existing program … Those companies and other companies have innovative technologies and have reduced emissions. That’s why we see the trend and the decline over the last decade of emissions from natural gas operations while we are at the same time increasing our production. We don’t need a program to do those reductions.”

 Isakower:

“We need to make sure that new regulations are necessary, not duplicative, and that they are based on sound science. Otherwise, we are regulating for the sake of regulating, and that could harm consumers. It could also result in undermining the overall goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joins API after spending 16 years as national editorial writer in the Washington Bureau of The Oklahoman newspaper. In all, he has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years, including six years as sports editor at The Washington Times. He lives in Occoquan, Virginia, with his wife Pamela. Mark graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in journalism and earned a masters in journalism and public affairs at American University. He's currently working on a masters in history at George Mason University, where he also teaches as an adjunct professor in the Communication Department.

Energy Tomorrow is a project of the American Petroleum Institute – the only national trade association that represents all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry – speaking for the industry to the public, Congress and the Executive Branch, state governments and the media.