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Eco Groups Say Thousands of Ohio Comments Favor EPA Methane Cuts

A group of environmental organizations said Monday that of the 700,000 comments submitted in favor of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposals to cut methane and air pollution from new and modified oil and gas industry sources, 71,000 of them came from Ohio.

Groups including the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) and the Sierra Club said Ohioans also submitted 30 "detailed" personal testimonies to the EPA during the agency's public hearing in Pittsburgh in September and at separate citizen hearings in Barnesville and Carrollton, OH, which are both located in areas of heavy Utica Shale drilling.

The public still has four days to submit comments on the EPA proposals, which were unveiled in August (see Shale DailyAug. 18). They include finding and repairing leaks, capturing natural gas from the completion of hydraulically fractured oil wells and limiting emissions from new and modified pneumatic pumps and downstream equipment. The proposals are a key component of President Obama's plan to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40-45% from 2012 levels by 2025.

The groups support tighter methane controls, saying the oil and gas industry in Ohio alone wasted enough methane in 2014 -- 13,000 metric tons -- to heat 8,500 homes there. The EPA's Pittsburgh hearing was one of two others in Denver and Dallas. Anger at the industry was evident at that event, where testimony was primarily delivered by industry opponents (see Shale DailyOct 1). An OEC representative that testified at the hearing told federal officials that the proposals fall short because they need to apply to existing methane sources.

The groups said Monday that "proven, low-cost technologies can eliminate as much as half of all climate-warming methane emissions from onshore oil and gas operations in the next five years." They also argued that tighter methane controls would have economic and labor benefits. The new standards, they said, are expected to "spur the creation of jobs in leak detection and repair," noting that Ohio itself is already home to 15 companies that specialize in fixing leaks.

An EPA report released earlier this year found that methane emissions from natural gas production have fallen about 38% since 2005, but emissions from processing increased by about 38% since that year and rose about 11% from gas transmission and storage sources. Methane emissions from hydraulically fractured wells have declined by about 79% since 2005, the report said. 

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