President Joe Biden has announced at the United Nations climate change summit in Glasgow, Scotland that he will use his powers to regulate methane that comes from oil and natural gas development.
Biden said he will direct the Environmental Protection Agency to limit the methane coming from all existing oil and gas rigs in the U.S., reversing the relaxed regulations of the Trump Administration. Biden will also seek to end the exemptions for legacy oil fields.
For Alaska, it’s an unknown. Because Alaska has the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which seeks to maximize conservation, Alaska has not been a big emitter of methane. In fact, oil fields in Alaska re-inject natural gas into the oil fields to force out more oil, rather than flaring it, as is done in other states. The commission ensures that field operators prevent waste, protect correlative rights, improve ultimate recovery and protect underground freshwater. The Commission also administers the Underground Injection Control program for enhanced oil recovery and underground disposal of oil field waste in Alaska.
The announcement by Biden could put a chill on oil development in places like North Dakota and the Permian Basin.
Hilcorp, which operates much of the North Slope since British Petroleum exited the state, is one of the larger emitters of methane in the nation, primarily because it takes over aging fields in Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wyoming and improves them. Part of that improvement is making them more efficient, which includes repairing things like leaks. The Houston-based company doesn’t get credit for improving old fields so they lose less methane, but will probably find the new regulations punishing.
The 100 nations attending the United Nations climate change summit have vowed to cut global emissions of methane by 30 percent over the next eight years, a goal that is hard to imagine.
Biden said his new mandate will create jobs in the methane-detection field, as well as jobs capping abandoned oil wells and fixing leaks.
Although the announcement came as a surprise to some, it was not a surprise to oil producers. The president, immediately after taking office in January, directed federal agencies to prepare these regulations in advance of the expected United Nations summit, where some of the richest people on the planet flew in private jets to determine how the earth’s poorest people will be prevented from improving their lives.