EPA methane emission controls, Obama vs Trump vs Biden: what needs to be fixed and what should be left alone
Kleinberg, Robert L.
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On 13 August 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promulgated its final rule amending the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for the Oil and Natural Gas Sector. Both adherents and detractors of President Donald J. Trump saw the new rule as contributing to the President’s deregulatory agenda, taking an important step toward American dominance in fossil fuels (desirable or not), and winning yet another battle in the war on the environmental protection legacy of President Barack Obama. This simple story line is compelling, but when the details are examined, it is found that the changes were in some ways more important, and in other ways less important than advertised by supporters and opponents. Moreover, some of the changes have damaged positions Trump championed, while others have the potential to substantially improve the environmental performance of the oil and gas industry. Most importantly, some major sources of methane emissions have been inadequately dealt with across both administrations. Therefore the Biden administration EPA, in re-examining NSPS, should take care to discard the mistakes made by the Trump administration, retain the improvements, and move forward on a number of new fronts. Topics explored include redundancy of methane and volatile organic compound leak detection, regulation of older and low production facilities, abandoned wells, pneumatic controllers, oil storage tanks, routine flaring, malfunctioning and unlit flares, gathering pipelines, and EPA certification of new methane emission detection technology. All results and any errors in this report are the responsibility of the author.
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