We hope our leaders have the public’s best interest in mind. Unfortunately, instead of using sound science, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt appears to be making decisions based on the influence of the worst actors in the oil and gas industry.
Although in his recent Congressional testimony he said the outcome of his proposal to suspend and possibly roll back EPA’s methane rule is yet to be determined, the way he justifies the delay of these standards shows he lacks confidence in American industry’s ability to rise to a challenge. Specifically, Pruitt wants to suspend EPA’s New Source Performance Standards for 2 years longer (beyond the one year phase-in already provided by the Rule). He suggests that this extended suspension is justified in part because he says that the leak detection and repair industry isn’t capable of meeting the rule’s provisions requiring oil and gas companies to check for and repair methane leaks twice a year.
But Pruitt hasn’t provided any support for these claims and they are totally inconsistent with the engineers, servicemen, and tech developers already providing the services needed to find and fix these leaks. His argument also flies in the face of how our economy has innovated for centuries.
When we’ve needed common sense solutions, American innovation gets us there
Time and time again, American businesses get to work, innovate, and meet market demands, delivering improvements in health and the environment while businesses continue to grow.
For example, I worked at the global oilfield services company Schlumberger during the heyday of the hydraulic fracturing boom in the United States. During that time I saw that, alongside the companies drilling and completing wells, a remarkable number of small businesses emerged to meet additional service requirements that arose due to the increased activity. From companies that managed workover rigs to trucking companies that hauled proppant across state lines, businesses formed and expanded to meet this new demand.
And this is the case across the economy. For instance, for over a century the lightbulbs we used were barely more efficient than the one invented by Thomas Edison in 1879. But when the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 required lightbulbs to get 25% more efficient, we sure didn’t go back to candles. American industry innovated and the market came up with LEDs.
Pruitt ignores a diverse and robust methane mitigation industry
In the case of methane mitigation, American workers are innovating, delivering benefits, and reducing costs as a result.
There are currently over 130 firms, operating in almost every state, providing the services and technology needed to find and fix methane leaks.
These companies, whose services include conducting leak detection in the field, manufacturing the infrared cameras needed for these surveys and much more, provide important services to oil and gas companies big and small. Because methane is the main component of natural gas, these firms help the oil and gas industry save money, get more product to the customer, and reduce energy waste.
Methane mitigation companies range from firms such as EMSI, which employs hundreds of dedicated LDAR professionals, to one man operations, where an entrepreneur with an infrared camera is helping local oil and gas companies manage their emissions.
In conversations with those in this industry, firms have confirmed substantial growth in demand for their services since the EPA rules went into effect. Suspending these rules would cause a wave of uncertainty for both oil and gas producers, as well as their service providers, in addition to wasting more American resources.
Others will lead if America doesn’t
Another recent report found that methane mitigation in North America is not limited to the United States. Canada has a robust methane mitigation industry, one that is poised for steady growth as new national and provincial regulations come into effect. If we reverse course now, we may find ourselves lagging behind our neighbors to the north in providing the services needed for an efficient industry.
Not the American way
In proposing to suspend the EPA methane rules, Scott Pruitt is responding to the pessimism of the worst actors in industry. This thinking does not represent what’s best about America.
I’ve worked in the field, and also had the opportunity to talk with many methane mitigation companies. This is what I’ve seen: The industry is thriving; LDAR companies are working with industry clients to meet demand; and, with the right market signals, LDAR service companies can and will continue to expand.