On Saturday the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a final rule to sharply reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. The rule, which applies to all wells across the country, aims to cut methane pollution and mitigate the impacts of climate change, while safeguarding public health. For years, communities throughout the country, including in Wyoming, have been severely impacted by the unrestricted release of air pollutants like methane and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) from oil and gas wells. VOC and other hazardous air pollutants are associated with oil and gas extraction and production and can negatively affect public health.

Methane, once released into the atmosphere, has 80 times the warming potential of CO2 over a 20 year period. In the US, the oil and gas industry is the most significant source of methane emissions outside of livestock production. EPA’s rule requires regular leak monitoring at all well sites, ensuring that methane emissions are effectively controlled. The rule will also require new emissions sources to eliminate routine flaring within two years of its implementation. This stipulation means Americans and Wyomingites will no longer lose out on gas royalties due to this wasteful practice. The rule also designates a method by which certified third parties can detect and report significant methane leaks to EPA, who will then notify the operator, reducing lag time in responding to leaks and enhancing accountability for the oil and gas industry.

Cutting methane pollution from the oil and gas industry is recognized as the quickest and most cost-effective way to slow the rate of climate change and protect public health. The EPA’s rule is estimated to eliminate 58 million tons of methane between its 2024 implementation date and 2034. The rule will also reduce VOC emissions by 16 million tons and remove 590,000 tons of other hazardous pollutants from the air. Reducing these emissions will ensure a healthier future for communities across the nation.

“In Converse County, there is still routine flaring at many sites – this is clearly visible from our ranch at night,” said Powder River member Maria Katherman. “We are pleased to see EPA doing more to stop this dangerous and wasteful practice. This rule is a win for rural communities throughout Wyoming.”