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The World Resources Institute (WRI) is touting options for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use Clean Air Act authority to force cuts in the natural gas sector's emissions of the greenhouse gas (GHG) methane, according to a report byPower Engineering.
WRI is seeking ways to curb emissions of raw methane gas, which has 21 or more times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. A study by Princeton University indicates that when natural emissions exceed 3.2 percent of the natural gas produced for use, natural gas is more polluting than coal, and far more polluting than oil. Emissions occur throughout the process of drilling, transmission and distribution, and there are strong indications that current leakage far exceeds 3.2 percent.
WRI is urging EPA to target the entire natural gas supply chain beyond drilling operations and to offer states flexibility in how to comply with the regulations, according to the article.
WRI made its pitch after EPA recently issued its 2011 emissions data reported under its mandatory GHG registry. The data shows that methane emissions during drilling are the second largest source of U.S. carbon emissions after power plants, with producers emitting 225 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent last year.
EPA has to date refused to impose mandatory GHG limits on the sector. Meanwhile, environmentalists have sued to try and force the agency to include GHG limits in the rule, and a coalition of Eastern states has filed a notice of intent to sue EPA to require first-time climate rules for the sector.
In its report, "Can the U.S. Get There from Here: Using Existing Federal Laws and State Action to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions?" WRI points to an ambitious "go-getter" policy scenario targeting air controls during various stages of the natural gas lifecycle that would not be caught under the existing NSPS rules for the sector, saying the measures could achieve GHG reductions of as much as 67 percent starting in 2019, according toPower Engineering.
WRI study author Nicholas Bianco said natural gas systems present a significant opportunity for GHG reductions only if "EPA tackles the sector head on and establishes a GHG standard for natural gas," according to Power Engineering.