Why people are mad at the EPA???s methane rules

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Call it the Great Methane Melee of 2015.

Proposed rules unveiled by the Obama administration earlier this month calls for the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce methane emissions from oil and natural gas production sites for the first time ever.

The potential regulations have been criticized by environmentalists for not going far enough while the industry says they???re not necessary.

???The Obama administration must reconsider their strategy on methane and put out a much stronger proposed rule,??? said Greenpeace, Public Citizen and Friends of the Earth in a joint news release.

???Onerous new regulations could threaten the shale energy revolution, America???s role as a global energy superpower, and the dramatic reductions in CO2 emissions made possible by an abundant and affordable domestic supply of clean-burning natural gas,??? said American Petroleum Institute president Jack Gerard in a dueling statement.

The argument centers on methane, a main component of natural gas.

The EPA estimates it has 25 times the heat-trapping potential of carbon dioxide over a 100-year period and can leak from wellheads during production.

In its announcement about the proposed changes, the agency called methane a ???potent??? pollutant and wants new rules requiring a 40-45 percent reduction from 2012 levels by 2025.

But the rules would only affect new and modified sources at production sites, not existing oil and gas operations. That???s why environmentalists are mad.

The industry is upset because it points to experts who say that more methane is emitted from ??? there???s no delicate way of putting it ??? cow flatulence than from natural gas wells.

What???s more, they say methane levels have been decreasing in recent years even though natural gas production has boomed.

Energy In Depth, a pro-industry group launched by the Independent Petroleum Association of America, recently released a chart showing falling methane emissions across the country in major oil and gas basins.

However, the Williston Basin in North Dakota and the Barnett Shale in Texas were not included in the chart.

Methane emissions in the Williston Basin rose 200,000 metric tons between 2011 and 2013 even as oil production doubled in the area. According to Katie Brown, who wrote the story accompanying the chart for Energy In Depth, emissions in the Bend Arch Basin in the Barnett Shale ???ticked up??? while emissions in the Barnett???s Fort Worth Basin ???went down considerably.???

???We didn???t include these areas in our report because conveying that full picture accurately would have been too much for a single infographic,??? Brown said in an email to

The EPA says it hasn???t made a final decision on the proposal. In fact, draft regulations won???t be released until this summer. A public comments period will follow and the proposal isn???t expected to be finalized until next year ??? the last year of the Obama presidency.

The EPA acknowledges that oil and gas emissions are down 16 percent since 1990 and that ???current data show significant reductions from certain parts of the sector,??? but says emissions ???are projected to rise more than 25 percent by 2025 without additional steps to lower them.???

Oil and gas supporters say the proposal amounts to overkill.

???Drillers have a powerful motive to stop leakage on their own,??? Stephen Moore, chief economist at the Heritage Foundation wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Times, ???because they want to sell it, not spill it.??? Moore also suspected environmental groups want to restrict shale oil and gas drilling because falling prices would make renewables less attractive.

Environmental groups insist the industry needs to be monitored by the EPA.

???It is naïve to think an industry with many thousands of companies would be able to police itself,??? said Mark Brownstein, associate vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund. ???A basic set of regulations are absolutely necessary to assure the public that all companies will play by the same set of rules.???

As for catching heat from each side, EPA press secretary Liz Purchia acknowledged the agency???s approach is ???ambitious.???

???We believe that voluntary efforts to reduce emissions from existing sources, combined with action states are taking, could achieve significant emission reductions in the near term,??? she said in an email to