By Rachel Koning Beals
The Biden administration is advancing plans to cut methane emissions sharply by the end of the decade, using tougher proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulations and other efforts to hit the mark, it said Tuesday, in a move that will frustrate an oil and gas industry that says it’s been cleaning up its act without a government push.
The action is part of a U.S. pledge made with the European Union to cut overall methane emissions by 30% below 2020 levels by 2030. On Tuesday, the U.S. and the EU announced at the U.N.’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow that nearly 90 heads of state from around the world had joined this methane effort. This includes pledges from the other top methane emitters, including Indonesia, Pakistan, Argentina, Mexico, Nigeria, Iraq, Vietnam and Canada.
Brazil, a major methane contributor, has said it will join. Holdouts include China, Russia and India, which combined generate about 30% of methane emissions.
Methane is more potent than carbon emissions but lasts for a shorter time in the atmosphere.
On Tuesday, the EPA will propose new methane rules that regulate leak detection and other factors. The action reverses the Trump administration’s nullification of Obama administration efforts in this area and goes further, a senior Biden official said.
The proposed EPA rule will apply to new operations for natural gas, including the regulation of natural gas that is produced as a byproduct of oil production, and that is frequently vented or flared .
Environmental groups say it’s perhaps the biggest single thing governments can do to improve the chances of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
“As has already been stated, it’s one of the most potent greenhouse gases there is. It amounts to about half — half the warming we’re experiencing today — just the methane exposure,” Biden said in a Tuesday address to the COP26 summit. “So, together, we’re committing to collectively reduce our methane by 30% by 2030. And I think we can probably go beyond that,” Biden said, adding that he expected improved respiratory health and the growth of U.S. jobs to help with methane detection.
Scientists welcomed the proposals but also said they were overdue.
“Today’s proposals represent essential progress and long-demanded action to rein in methane emissions from oil and gas operations,” said Julie McNamara, deputy policy director in the climate and energy program at Union of Concerned Scientists.
“For too long, we’ve known the damaging impacts of this potent heat-trapping pollutant, known that oil and gas operations continue to be a major source of it, and known that solutions to drive rapid reductions across the sector already exist–yet still, oil and gas operations continue to release untenably high and entirely preventable methane emissions,” she said. “This is no accident, but rather the result of a concerted industry lobbying campaign to block, delay and roll back federal regulations.”
A leading oil and gas /zigman2/quotes/203527521/composite XOP +3.80% trade group said its imperative it can help shape final rule.
“We support the direct regulation of methane from new and existing sources and are committed to building on the progress we have achieved in reducing methane emissions,” said Senior Vice President for Policy, Economics and Regulatory Affairs Frank Macchiarola, at the American Petroleum Institute (API).
“EPA has released a sweeping proposal, and we look forward to reviewing it in its entirety. We will continue working with the agency to help shape a final rule that is effective, feasible and designed to encourage further innovation,” he said.
U.S. methane emissions rates in the largest producing regions have declined 70% in the past decade, even as America produces more affordable, reliable and cleaner natural gas, the API claims on its site .