EPA again urges companies to voluntarily seek out methane leaks

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has launched another voluntary program urging oil and gas companies to seek out methane leaks in their production system of their own accord.

Speaking at the Global Methane Forum in Washington D.C. Wednesday, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said 41 companies had already signed on to what she described as “a platform for companies to transparently report actions to reduce methane emissions and to be publicly recognized as leaders in reducing methane emissions in the United States.”

President Obama has set the goal of reducing U.S. methane emissions 45 percent by 2025, as part of a larger strategy to slow climate change. In December he joined leaders from close to 200 countries in pledging to work on limiting the rise in average global temperatures no more than 2 degrees Celsius.

Methane, while on 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, is believed to have a warming effect 25 times that of carbon dioxide. Leaks from oil and gas production, along with the cattle industry and landfills, have been identified as principal sources of the gas.

The voluntary program is designed to supplement stepped up enforcement efforts by both EPA and state environmental agencies, which are using infrared cameras both during on-site inspections and aerial surveys to identify leaks not visible to the naked eye.

EPA launched its first voluntary program on methane emissions back in the 1990s. While McCarthy was critical of industry participation to date during a press conference in February, EPA said  this week participants had saved 1.2 trillion cubic feet of methane from escaping into the atmosphere. Methane is the principal component of natural gas, which currently trades around $1.90 per million cubic feet.