New rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency would require regular inspections of all methane-emitting oil and gas production sites throughout the country. In Pennsylvania, groups that support the rules say they’ll open the door for more jobs in the natural-gas industry.
Isaac Brown, executive director of the Center for Methane Emission Solutions, noted there is a market now for technologies and companies to help energy producers address emissions, which means they’ll need more workers.
“Jobs can be created to help companies comply with these rules,” he said, “but because these rules will result in more product being saved that can be brought to market, producers can also actually see their profits increase.”
The new rules are meant to supplement the comprehensive rules to capture more methane from leaks and flaring at well sites that the Biden administration released last year.
John Walliser, senior vice president of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, explained that methane has more than 80 times the global-warming power of carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after it reaches the atmosphere – so curbing emissions is a way to slow climate change. He said that’s important for Pennsylvania in several ways, because of the high number of wells in the state.
“The first is that the rule ensures that consistent leak detection and repair standards are applied at well sites,” he said, “particularly for those that have equipment known to malfunction and cause fugitive emissions.”
He said the rule will also require that operators monitor and report on low-producing or abandoned well sites until they are properly plugged and closed.
Walliser added that the EPA rules will mean other harmful pollutants are curbed as well as methane because of the more sophisticated technologies that will be used. He said that will also ensure methane can be captured and sold instead of escaping into the air.
“When you prevent fugitive emissions, you’re preventing the waste of these resources, and that leads to cost savings, both for the oil and gas operators themselves as well as energy consumers,” he said. “The other benefit we see for Pennsylvania is that it’s going to help drive new technologies and the growth of businesses here in the state, in the methane-mitigation space.”
He said several service and manufacturing firms already are located in Pennsylvania, and many are small businesses that can take advantage of these new opportunities.