New ‘EPA Methane Emissions Rule’ Sounds Mind-Numbing, But It’s a Big Deal

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This NASA-supplied satellite photo highlights how widespread North Dakota's flaring (methane emissions) are from their oil wells.
To “see” fracking’s colorless and odorless methane emissions in action, this NASA satellite photo reveals North Dakota’s oil fields at night flaring off the “useless” natural gas.

I will admit that if I skimmed the following New York Time’s headline a few years ago, EPA Announces New Rules to Cut Methane Emissions, I wouldn’t have kept reading. I’m just going to say it, this sounds like the most boring topic ever. But, I know a bit more now about fracking, global warming, and condensate tanks. This dull-sounding rule is actually a big deal, assuming it survives the legal challenges. For the first time, the U.S. fracking industry will have to comply with one federal environmental law.  Yep – one federal environmental law. 

Fracking is exempted from the seven big federal regulations intended to protect people, places, water and air. Read how the fracking industry has been unhampered by federal environmental oversight. 

States regulate fracking. Investing some time in reading this excellent NYT series about North Dakota’s fracking experience is all you need to realize that the state’s foxes are often guarding the hen house.  (The article’s video even showcases methane emissions in action.)

Included as part of Obama’s broader climate change strategy, this proposed regulation only pertains to new fracking wells, pipes, compressors and tanks. Not the 100,000 wells and the massive system already spewing methane into the sky. Methane is 86 times more potent than CO2 in its first 20 years in the atmosphere. Methane is the last thing our climate needs as we charge past 400 part per billion in CO2 levels. 450 ppb is the “we’re cooked” number, and we may hit that by 2030. 

Fracking is a leaky system that needs a big handyman to cork the leaks. Obama’s methane emission’s rule is just the first, albeit small, tool on that handyman’s belt. 

Did you know that Pennsylvania’s and West Virginia’s fracking methane air pollution is now in Baltimore? Maryland has held off on fracking until at least October 2017.

Laurel Peltier
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Laurel Peltier

Laurel writes the environmental GreenLaurel column every other Thursday in the Baltimore Fishbowl. A graduate of UVA's MBA program, she spends her time with her family and making "all things green" interesting.
Laurel Peltier
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