The United States Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) released a report on April 20, 2022 titled:
OIL AND GAS: Federal Actions Needed to Address Methane Emissions from Oil and Gas Development (“Report”)
the Report was undertaken at the request of:
Joe Manchin, III
Chairman, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, United States Senate
Thomas R. Carper
Chairman, Environment and Public Works Committee, United States Senate
Senator Maria Cantwell
Senator Angus S. King, Jr.
Oil and gas production activities can emit methane through:
- Intentional releases
Methane is considered an important greenhouse gas.
The GAO has been asked to examine methane emissions from oil and gas development on federal lands. In response, the report:
- Describes actions federal agencies have taken to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas, and implementation challenges
- Examines actions taken by some industry entities to reduce methane emissions
- Examines how some states regulate methane emissions and how these efforts could serve as benchmarks for additional federal actions
The GAO notes that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) have enacted regulations aimed at reducing methane emissions from the production of oil and gas. Nevertheless, the report expresses concern that these regulatory activities have encountered problems. The report states:
. . . for example, in 2016 the EPA established national standards for methane emissions, but the EPA repealed and reduced those requirements in 2020. A June 2021 congressional resolution resulted in the reinstatement of the 2016 standards on the methane. The EPA and BLM are developing regulatory proposals to reduce methane emissions.
Some industry participants are identified as taking voluntary actions to address methane emissions, such as using aircraft and satellites to detect emissions. In addition, some states have reportedly enacted regulations regarding methane emissions from oil and gas operations that exceed BLM requirements.
Recommendations from the GAO report include:
- EPA should offer greater flexibility to operators to use alternative technologies to detect methane emissions
- BLM should consider whether to require gas capture plans similar to those required by states (including gas capture targets on federal lands)
A copy of the GAO report can be downloaded here.