WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a new proposal on Tuesday that would expand existing rules on reporting greenhouse gas emissions to include oil and natural gas production facilities and add methane gas for the first time.
Taking another step toward regulating pollutants that spur climate change, the EPA said companies must start collecting the data in January 2011 and report their emissions to the EPA in March 2012.
“Gathering this information is the first step toward reducing greenhouse emissions and fostering innovative technologies,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement.
It is particularly important to track methane produced by oil and natural gas systems, Jackson said, noting methane traps 20 times more heat than carbon dioxide, speeding climate change.
The oil and gas industry accounts for almost a fourth of U.S. methane emissions.
The environmental community welcomed the EPA’s action.
“The public has been left in the dark about methane emissions from the oil and gas industry,” said Pamela Campos, an attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund.
“EPA’s leadership in requiring disclosure of this potent greenhouse gas will mean more rigorous information and smarter policies to address pollution,” she added.
The EPA’s proposal would cover methane and carbon dioxide emissions emitted by both on-shore and off-shore production facilities, along with processing and transmission facilities, according to the green group.
Most of the large U.S. oil and gas production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico would have to report their emissions under the EPA rules, according to Karen Ritter, spokeswoman for the American Petroleum Institute.
Many of the API’s member oil and gas companies knew the rules were coming and have already been voluntarily reporting their carbon dioxide and methane emissions, she said.
The Obama administration has pushed Congress to craft legislation to control emissions of gases blamed for warming the planet. But with a bill stalled in the Senate because of opposition from lawmakers in energy-rich states, the EPA has moved to regulate the gases, which it has already declared a threat to human health.
The EPA finalized its greenhouse gas reporting system in October, which requires 31 sectors covering 85 percent of total U.S. emissions to participate.
The new proposal will also apply to industries that emit fluorinated gases that can stay in the atmosphere for thousands of years, and to facilities that inject and store carbon dioxide underground, either for sequestration or for oil and gas recovery, the EPA said.
The plan will be open for comments for 60 days, including during two public hearings in April.
The EPA said it is also proposing that all facilities in its reporting system provide information on corporate ownership.
Reporting by Roberta Rampton; additional reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by Lisa Shumaker