Biden’s climate plan aims to cut methane emissions
The proposed rule would target for the first time reductions in existing oil and gas wells nationwide, rather than focusing only on new wells as previous regulations have done.
EPA administrator Michael Regan said the new rule, established under the Clean Air Act, would result in significant reductions in emissions of methane and other pollutants and would be more stringent than a UK standard. Obama era established in 2016. Congress restored the Obama standard last summer in a rare effort by majority Democrats to use the legislature to reverse a regulatory setback under President Donald Trump.
“As world leaders gather at this crucial moment in Glasgow for COP26, it is now quite clear that America is back and leading by example to face the climate crisis with bold ambition,” Regan said, referring to the climate summit.
The EPA’s “historic action” will “ensure strong and lasting reductions in pollution across the country,” Regan said. The new rule will protect communities near oil and natural gas sites and advance U.S. climate goals under the 2015 Paris Agreement, he said.
The oil and natural gas industry is the country’s largest industrial source of methane, a very potent pollutant that is responsible for about a third of the current warming due to human activities.
The oil and gas sector is also a major source of other harmful air pollutants, including volatile compounds that contribute to ground-level ozone, or smog, and air toxins such as benzene that are emitted with methane.
Environmental groups call methane reduction the fastest, most cost-effective action to slow the rate of global warming. Current rules for methane emissions from U.S. oil and gas wells only apply to sources constructed or modified after 2015, leaving more than 90% of the country’s roughly 900,000 well sites unregulated.
The American Petroleum Institute, the oil and gas industry’s leading lobby group, has said it supports the direct regulation of methane emissions from new and existing sources, but opposes congressional efforts to impose charges on methane leaks, calling them punitive and unnecessary. The industry claims that leaks of methane, the main component of natural gas, have declined even as natural gas production has increased due to the current boom in hydraulic fracturing. Technological advances in recent years have made finding and repairing natural gas leaks cheaper and easier.
The administration’s plan includes new transportation ministry safety rules to tighten methane leakage requirements from the country’s 3 million kilometers of pipelines.
The Home Office, meanwhile, is preparing to crack down on methane waste burned at drilling sites on public lands. And the Ministry of Agriculture is working with farmers to establish so-called climate-smart standards to monitor and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon storage.
The plan focuses on reducing pollution from the largest sources of methane emissions and uses financial incentives, public disclosure and private partnerships to reduce leaks and waste, protect workers and communities, and create union-friendly jobs, a senior administration official said at a briefing on Monday. The official asked not to be named because the person was not authorized to speak until the actions were publicly announced.
Biden has already announced plans to step up efforts to plug leaks in old gas wells and clean up abandoned coal mines. A bipartisan Senate-approved infrastructure bill includes billions to reclaim abandoned mining land and cover orphaned wells.
The administration is also targeting methane emissions from landfills, with a focus on food losses and waste which is a major contributor. The EPA has set a voluntary goal of capturing 70% of methane emissions from US landfills.