When it comes to methane, better regulatory approach needed

Perspectives blog
Bart Cahir - Aug. 20, 2020

There has been a strong regulatory reform effort over the last few years in the U.S. that has spurred investment and economic growth. As our Chairman and CEO Darren Woods has noted, sound tax and regulatory policies help foster pro-growth business climates.

That pro-growth foundation will be even more important as the country seeks to recover from the economic devastation wrought by COVID-19.

While ExxonMobil has been supportive of the regulatory reform efforts, we respectfully disagree with last week’s Environmental Protection Agency decision to pull back direct regulation of methane emissions from new oil and gas facilities.

For several years, ExxonMobil has advocated for Washington to regulate methane emissions across the natural gas value chain. In our view, the move EPA announced misses the mark, especially since the agency will no longer take action on existing sources.

ExxonMobil has a long history of supporting smart regulation, even when many in our industry may have a different view.

This is one of those cases.

Climate change risks posed by methane and other greenhouse gas emissions are serious and warrant action by government and by industry.

The voluntary steps ExxonMobil has taken to reduce methane emissions in our own operations – from phasing out older equipment to enhanced leak detection using aircraft and Big Data – show progress is possible.  The best way to spread that progress throughout industry and make a more substantial impact on methane emissions is through responsible, cost-effective regulation.

We’re also making strides to reduce flaring, another source of GHG emissions. After instituting new protocols for our U.S. unconventional operations last year, we reduced the flaring intensity in Texas and New Mexico from 4.7 percent to approximately 1 percent.

That’s real progress.

While EPA may be relaxing standards when it comes to methane, we continue to work with states with oil and gas production (like New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Texas, for instance) on reasonable methane regulations for both new and existing sources.

After all, if progress is to be realized for everyone’s benefit – both in terms of providing the energy our economy needs while managing environmental impacts – then government and the entire industry must act together, not just a few individual companies.

Bart Cahir is Senior Vice President, Unconventional, ExxonMobil Upstream Oil & Gas Company.

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