Clean Power Push Tackles Natural Gas

Editor's Note: The Millennial Voices series is written by and for Millennials to foster nonpartisan discussion. Chad Dixon is an Operator at Viridity Energy. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions 26% - 28% below 2005 levels by 2025 is the Obama Administration's goal. Deciding where to make these cuts, however, is the challenge.

Emitting methane gas into the atmosphere has 25 times the effect on climate change as emitting carbon dioxide. 

On August 18, President Obama and the EPA announced a plan to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40% - 45% from 2012 levels over the next decade. At first glance, this may seem like a major issue for the oil and natural gas industries. But upon further review, it may not be such a devastating blow.

Currently, these new methane regulations will only affect new or modified sources of oil and natural gas — leaving existing wells unregulated.

Below is a map of planned power plants in the United States. New natural gas plants on this map will not be affected by the current proposal.

Many companies were anticipating regulations and have already begun integrating methane mitigation technology. Fadel Gheit, senior energy analyst at Oppenheimer stated in a CNBC interview, “the cost of these regulations would not have a significant impact on most oil and natural gas exploration.”

Bruce Huber, an associate professor at the University of Notre Dame who specializes in environmental and energy law stated, “The best view is that it's a pretty big problem for a small number of operations that are poorly done… it doesn't take too many bad apples for it to become a sizable problem.”

The EPA will take comments on this proposal for the next 60 days, and regulations will be implemented sometime in 2016.

Placing restrictions on new and modified natural gas and oil wells is estimated to account for only 20% - 30% of methane reductions by 2025. Critics claim that more regulations on existing oil and natural gas plants are coming and will account for the remaining 10% - 20%.

These methane regulations come on the back of Obama’s Clean Power Plan to regulate existing coal power plants. After receiving legal “heat” from 15 states, a federal appeals court declined a petition to block implementation of this plan.

Lawyers for the EPA stated, “The plain terms of the [Clean Air] Act and this Court’s binding precedent compel dismissal of these petitions.”

An increase in federal regulations for fossil fuels is a timely tactic to gain leverage for the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in December. A world-wide climate change mitigation plan is the goal of this conference, and without a national climate change policy, the United States would flounder in these negotiations. 

More articles by Chad Dixon: Production Tax Credits: A Vessel for Clean Energy Growth, Winners and Losers of Obama's Clean Power Plan, America's Institutional Energy Infrastructure, A Millennial Path to a Clean Energy Future

Chad Dixon is currently an Operator at Viridity Energy where he has since become a PJM Certified Generation Operator. Chad has previously worked at the Department of Energy and received his B.S. in Energy and Environmental Policy with a Concentration in Economics and Public Policy from University of Delaware.


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