Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 23, 2015

Contact: Patrick Sullivan, (415) 517-9364,

Voluntary EPA Program Won't Curb Oil and Gas Industry's Massive Methane Pollution

WASHINGTON— A revamped EPA program unveiled today will do little to curb the oil and gas industry’s massive emissions of methane, a dangerously potent greenhouse pollutant. The new Natural Gas STAR Methane Challenge Program is a strictly voluntary system proposed in lieu of real methane regulations for existing oil and gas operations that are outside ozone non-attainment areas.

“Coddling the oil and gas industry with another voluntary program won’t curb the massive methane emissions cooking our climate,” said Vera Pardee of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Obama administration must regulate this dangerous pollutant while we move to a clean-energy future. To fight global warming, we need real methane rules, along with real and rapid progress away from these dirty fossil fuels.”

The new program supplements the existing NaturalGas STAR program, which has been joined by less than 1 percent of oil and gas producers. In 2013 the existing program prevented methane emissions equivalent to just 24 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent — a fraction of the 182 trillion tons of CO2 equivalent emitted by oil and gas operations that year.

The EPA will likely propose methane standards for new and modified oil and gas facilities later this summer, but today’s announcement signals the agency’s intent to give industry a free pass for its massive methane emissions from existing facilities. Yet methane regulations for existing facilities will be required under the Clean Air Act.

The oil and gas sector produces nearly 30 percent of U.S. methane emissions, making it the nation’s largest source of the pollutant. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas — 87 times more effective than CO2 at warming the planet over a 20-year period.

Nearly a decade ago, the EPA published an extensive report outlining low- and no-cost methane mitigation strategies for the oil and gas industry and other sectors. Since that initial report, numerous other studies have shown the potential for significant methane reductions from oil and gas operations. Yet the EPA continues to ignore the information it has in hand, instead focusing on further data collection and monitoring. In fact, the proposed monitoring for the Methane Challenge program will largely consist of existing requirements under the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.

“The oil and gas industry has a dismal track record of shrugging off voluntary methane-reduction efforts,” Pardee said. “The best way to prevent methane pollution is to keep dirty oil and gas in the ground by banning fracking and curtailing drilling. But we need ambitious federal methane rules to buy time to ward off catastrophic climate change.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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