Dec 18, 2018

Exxon asks EPA to regulate methane emissions from oil and gas

Flames from a flaring pit near a well in the Bakken Oil Field in North Dakota. Photo: Orjan F. Ellingvag/Corbis via Getty Images

ExxonMobil Corp., the world’s biggest publicly traded oil company, is calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate emissions of methane from all new and existing oil and gas wells across the country, according to a letter obtained by Axios.

The big picture: Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is the primary component of natural gas and is sometimes purposefully or inadvertently leaked in the production and transport of the fuel, as well as when drilling for oil. The EPA has been slow in its approach toward rolling back Obama-era methane rules, in part due to industry divisions.

Details: Through its subsidiary XTO Energy, Exxon is one of America’s biggest producers of natural gas. It has two reasons to back such a regulation.

  1. Exxon is facing pressure from investors and lawsuits over climate change. By calling for regulations, it’s an attempt to show Exxon wants gas to be as clean as possible, even if those regulations never happen. “We believe the correct mix of policies and reasonable regulations help reduce emissions, further supporting the benefits of natural gas in the energy mix,” writes Gantt Walton, vice president in Exxon’s Washington office, in the letter sent as part of the regulatory process.
  2. As a massive global company, Exxon is positioned to benefit financially over smaller companies. It can easily afford pollution-control equipment that others have a harder time obtaining.

Between the lines: This is a subtle escalation in Exxon’s positioning on this issue. The company has previously said it backs federal methane regulations, but — until now —had not gone as far as to ask the EPA to do so in writing.

  • It’s also significant that Exxon is asking the agency to regulate methane emissions from existing wells, which would affect hundreds of thousands of wells. Under Trump, the EPA is very unlikely to do this. President Obama’s EPA had started the initial groundwork for such a rule, but didn’t get far before Trump took over.

What’s next: This letter is in response to a technical rollback EPA is undertaking. The agency is expected to propose a broader rollback of the rules soon.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 721,584 — Total deaths: 33,958 — Total recoveries: 149,122.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 142,106 — Total deaths: 2,479 — Total recoveries: 2,686.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump says his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "panicked" some people into fleeing New York
  6. World updates: Italy on Sunday reports 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reports almost 840 dead, another new daily record that bring its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

World coronavirus updates: Cases surge past 720,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

There are now more than 720,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins. The virus has now killed more than 33,000 people — with Italy alone reporting over 10,000 deaths.

The big picture: Governments around the world have stepped up public health and economic measures to stop the spread of the virus and soften the financial impact. In the U.S., now the site of the largest outbreak in the world, President Trump said Sunday that his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 47 mins ago - Health

Trump says peak coronavirus deaths in 2 weeks, extends shutdown

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

President Trump is extending his administration's "15 days to slow the spread" shutdown guidelines for an additional month in the face of mounting coronavirus infections and deaths and pressure from public health officials and governors.

Driving the news: With the original 15-day period that was announced March 16 about to end, officials around the country had been bracing for a premature call to return to normalcy from a president who's been venting lately that the prescription for containing the virus could be worse than the impacts of the virus itself.

Go deeperArrow2 hours ago - Health