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EPA fracking rule seen as proxy for climate law
Date:23 Apr 2012
Accessibility:Subscription only, paid
U.S. EPA is using a rule intended to deal with toxic and smog-forming emissions from hydraulic fracturing as a shortcut to its real goal of reducing emissions linked to climate change, gas advocates said this week. The updated New Source Performance Standards for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that EPA unveiled on Wednesday would require all new and "refracked" hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, gas development operations to use so-called green completion technology to capture emissions that otherwise would be vented into the air. The rule phases in by 2015, but EPA provides incentives for gas developers to move to green completion technology more quickly. But while the rule purports to be for VOCs, its real effect would be to limit methane, industry officials say. "This is the first step toward greenhouse gas regulation for oil and gas operations," said Bill Whitsitt, executive vice president of Devon Energy Corp. "They don't call it that." Green completions work by capturing natural gas, which is primarily composed of methane -- a greenhouse gas more than 20 times more potent as a contributor to climate change than carbon dioxide. The VOCs that are targeted by the New Source Performance Standards represent a much smaller share of the emissions that would be captured.