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Utah group backs new EPA proposal to reduce methane emissions

Burning of gas in torches. Pressure relief system. Oil preparation and pumping workshop. The central point of oil gathering from wells of deposits.
Adobe Stock
According to the EPA, stronger standards would reduce harmful emissions and energy waste from covered sources by 87% below 2005 levels.

One Utah group is pleased with the Environmental Protection Agency's latest proposal to further reduce methane pollution from oil and gas drilling.

This comes almost a year after President Joe Biden announced a methane rule for existing oil and gas wells nationwide, rather than solely focusing on new ones.

The latest rule targets drilling sites which are considered to be high-polluting, low-producing wells.

Executive Director of the nonprofit group Breathe Utah, Ashley Miller, said they support the stipulations that made it into the rule as the Biden administration continues to tackle climate change.

"I think," said Miller, "that the EPA really did take into consideration all of the conversations that we've had over this with them for the last many years."

The EPA's rule mandates producers to closely monitor operations, identify methane leaks and do routine checks at well sites. The new rule also aims to reduce flaring, or burning of natural gas at well sites.

According to the Environmental Defense Fund, reducing gas waste from leaks and flaring could provide over half of the 50 billion cubic meters per year of natural gas to European allies to address the energy crisis brought on by the war between Russia and Ukraine.

Miller said with good rules, good enforcement also is needed. She said she believes this new proposal encompasses a diverse group of producers that contribute varying levels of methane pollution across the country.

For Utah, Miller said she sees this direction by the EPA as crucial, especially for certain parts of the state that are subject to greater impacts of greenhouse gas emissions.

"I think that is really crucial for Utah, because of the Uinta Basin's unique wintertime ozone pollution that they experience," said Miller. "You know, it really is unlike any other place in the country where ozone is way more of a summertime issue."

She added that it's also important to highlight the willingness of operators who want to be part of the solution for better air quality.

She said she thinks the framework of the new rule is not only crucial but feasible - and not out of reach for stakeholders.