AP NEWS

Exxon Mobil backs EPA limits on methane emissions

December 28, 2018 GMT

WASHINGTON — Exxon Mobil Corp. is pressing the Environmental Protection Agency to maintain key elements of the Obama administration policy restricting methane emissions from oil and gas drilling.

In a recent letter to the agency, the Texas oil company said that while it is interested in finding cost-effective ways to regulate the greenhouse gas, the administration should maintain programs including the leak monitoring and enhanced standards to cut emissions that escape from pneumatic devices and storage tanks. Methane, the main component of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas.

“We believe the correct mix of policies and reasonable regulations help reduce emissions, further supporting the benefits of natural gas in the energy mix,” Gantt Walton, an Exxon Mobil vice president, wrote. “Overall we are pursuing initiatives that will result in a 15 percent decrease in company methane emissions by 2020.”

The letter from Exxon Mobil is another example of what appears to be the company’s changing attitude on climate change. Exxon Mobil, like other oil and gas companies, had long discounted the role of fossil fuels in global warming and raised doubts about climate science. But more recently, Exxon Mobil has announced efforts and joined initiatives aimed at slowing the pace of global warming, largely blamed on production and burning of fossil fuels, which release greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.

Among other policies, Exxon Mobil has come out in favor of a so-called carbon tax, which levies taxes or fees on products that produce carbon dioxide. Such a tax is viewed by its supporters as a market mechanism that would provide incentives for businesses and consumers to choose energy that emits the least carbon dioxide.

Earlier this year, Exxon Mobil, along with U.S. oil companies Chevron and Occidental Petroleum of Houston, joined Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, an organization launched four years ago by European energy giants including Royal Dutch Shell and BP, to reduce greenhouse gases from oil and natural gas. The group, which includes more than a dozen companies, recently pledged to cut methane emissions by 20 percent by 2025.

Exxon Mobil is also part of an initiative to cut methane emissions launched by the American Petroleum Institute.

Exxon Mobil has come under intense pressure to address climate change. The New York Attorney General has sued Exxon Mobil, alleging that it misled investors about the impact of climate change on its business — a claim the company denies. Other groups also have gone to court, seeking to hold Exxon Mobil and other oil companies responsible for potential damages caused by climate change.

Shareholders, in addition, are putting pressure on the company reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Institutional investors have filed a resolution pushing Exxon Mobil to set and disclose greenhouse gas reduction targets for its products and operations. The resolution — the first of its kind at Exxon Mobil — calls on the company to set short-, medium- and long-term emissions reduction targets in line with the Paris Climate agreement, a pact signed by about 200 countries to work to slow the pace of global warming.

Environmentalists, meanwhile, praised Exxon Mobil’s move to support EPA regulations limiting methane emissions from oil and gas operations.

“Reducing methane emissions from oil and gas operations is a critical, cost effective action in the fight to maintain a livable planet,” Danielle Fugere, president of the activist group As You Sow, said. “Exxon’s statement in support of sound regulations underscores the unreasonableness of the proposed rollbacks.”

Marissa Luck contributed.

james.osborne@chron.com

jordan.blum@chron.com