New report finds cutting methane emissions could bring thousands of jobs to Texas oil fields
As the Environmental Protection Agency pursues stricter regulations on methane emissions, oil and gas advocates in Texas claim those efforts will hurt the industry.
But a new report from researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Climate Jobs Project concluded tens of thousands of jobs may be created in Texas as a result of new methane regulations.
Martha Pskowski looked into the study for Inside Climate News and talked to Marfa Public Radio’s Mitch Borden about it.
Regulation could create jobs rather than kill them
The new report, titled Mitigating Methane in Texas: Reducing Emissions, Creating Jobs, and Raising Standards, estimates anywhere between 19,000 and 35,000 jobs in Texas could be created if more regulations are put in place to cut methane emissions in the state’s oil fields.
Later this year, the Environmental Protection Agency is set to finalize a new methane rule that would majorly reduce the potent greenhouse gas. And even though industry proponents worry the EPA’s proposal could kill jobs in the oil and gas industry — which is a major source of methane — the report’s authors wanted to look at how cutting emissions could potentially create opportunities.
According to Pskowski, the authors were thinking “about all the people who currently work in the oil and gas sector, making sure they're not, you know, left out as the country transitions to less polluting energy sources.”
Texas produces the most oil and gas in the United States and the Permian Basin, which is the most prolific oil field in the country, spans much of West Texas.
Oil and gas advocates have their doubts
Trying to reduce emissions across the oil and gas industry is a huge challenge.
“It's gonna be quite an undertaking,” Pskowski said. “The scale of the oil and gas industry just in Texas is massive. That's one of the reasons the regulators and Texas have pushed back on these regulations.”
Oil and gas advocates have resisted emission standards like the EPA’s proposed rule for years.
“They say just the number, the thousands of wells across the state, it's just going to be onerous, or unfeasible,” Pskowski explained. “But, you know, there are other states that have already adopted their own methane emissions [standards]. So there's already work being done, so it's not impossible.”
After the report was released, Wayne Christian, a member of the Texas Railroad Commission, which oversees the state's oil and gas industry, released a statement criticizing the study’s findings.
“You don't grow the Texas economy by breaking the oil and gas industry with anti-oil and gas regulations based on unsettled science from environmental alarmists in Washington DC," wrote Christian.
Even without new regulations, some companies are trying to cut emissions
Pskowski said even if the EPA weren’t pursuing stricter methane standards, there are already efforts within the industry to cut down on methane leaks and address other issues that contribute to climate change.
“We're already seeing a lot of money coming in to plug abandoned wells, which also reduces methane emissions,” she said. “And at the moment, there are companies that are voluntarily reducing their methane emissions.”
Even though this is happening now, Pskowski explained, if stricter rules are put in place the oil and gas industry will need a lot more workers looking at emissions.
“We're gonna need a lot more of these people who are doing those measurements and making repairs and so on,” she said.