President Barack Obama and Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Susan Walsh, Associated Press file photo)

President Barack Obama and Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Susan Walsh, Associated Press file photo)

http://www.pennlive.com/news/2016/03/obama_trudeau_crack_down_on_me.html

By Candy Woodall | cwoodall@pennlive.com
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on March 10, 2016 at 4:03 PM, updated March 11, 2016 at 7:17 AM

The U.S. and Canada are targeting oil and gas wells in the latest pact to fight climate change.

Both countries will cut methane emissions from the industry by 40 to 45 percent during the next nine years.

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday announced the joint effort, which is expected to affect hundreds of thousands of wells in the U.S.

The Obama administration has previously shared goals of cutting methane emissions more than 40 percent below 2012 levels by 2025.

But this is the first time the administration has focused on existing oil and gas wells.

In April, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release draft requirements that will cut methane emissions from oil and gas wells that haven't been drilled and new regulations for existing wells.

Oil and gas companies will have to provide information about equipment and emissions-control techniques throughout production, transmission, processing and storage, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said Thursday.

The new regulations will be in accordance with the Clean Air Act.

Canda's new rules will take effect early next year.

Pennsylvania is ahead of the curve on this one.

Gov. Tom Wolf and the state Department of Environmental Protection in January said they would issue new rules for methane emissions produced by Pennsylvania drillers to help the EPA fight climate change.

Gov. Wolf issues new rules to oil and gas industry for methane emissions

Methane, the main component in natural gas, is a greenhouse gas more potent in warming the climate than carbon, according to the EPA.

It has also been linked to health problems, such as asthma, headaches, dizziness, according to the National Institutes of Health.

How much methane has already been released into Pennsylvania's air during the last decade of shale drilling isn't really known. The new regulations include getting an answer to that question.

The most recent amount on file with the DEP – 115,000 tons – was provided by the industry through self-monitoring.

DEP Secretary John Quigley said the actual emissions are likely higher than what's been reported.

DEP unsure how much methane is in the air

The Marcellus Shale Coalition said operators have already cut emissions while boosting production, citing an April 2015 report by DEP in which the agency said the industry cut methane emissions by 13 percent in 2013.

The American Petroleum Institute echoed that statement on Thursday.

"Even as oil and natural gas production has risen dramatically, methane emissions have fallen, thanks to industry leadership and investment in new technologies," Kyle Isakower, a vice president at the American Petroleum Institute, said in a statement. "These industry-led efforts are a proven way to reduce methane emissions from existing sources, and they are clearly working."

Shale development helped the U.S. cut CO2 emissions to 20-year lows, he said.

Obama's plan will add "costly new regulations" that could harm America's shale energy revolution, which Isakower said has saved consumers $700 a year at the pump and $1,200 a year in utility bills.

"The administration is catering to environmental extremists at the expense of American consumers," he said.

Environmentalists cheered the joint announcement Thursday.

"As the EPA moves ahead with efforts to tackle methane pollution from the hundreds of thousands of wells across the U.S., Americans can expect more robust public health protections...," said Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of PennFuture.

Clean Air Council also thanked the leaders for their efforts.

"Air pollution knows no borders," Joseph Otis Minott, the council's executive director, said in a statement. "These rules are crucial for ensuring that the health of Pennsylvania residents is fully protected."

While state officials have already advanced a methane-reduction plan, air pollution from oil and gas operations in upwind states worsens Pennsylvania's air quality, he said.

"Now we need EPA to take bold and swift action to build on the work already being done in Pennsylvania and other states to ensure complete protection of our air and health," Minott said.

Pa. Supreme Court hears arguments on oil and gas regulations