Biden administration takes aim at methane emissions

Biden administration takes aim at methane emissions

WASHINGTON (The Hill): The Biden administration is announcing a series of actions aimed at tackling a potent greenhouse gas called methane that is significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.

The new efforts — which includes regulations on oil and gas drilling as well as pipelines — comes as the Biden administration seeks to reassert U.S. leadership on climate change during an ongoing global summit.

Methane is 25 times worse for the climate than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period and is responsible for 10 percent of the U.S.’s contribution to climate change.

“Through tackling methane emissions, spurring innovations, and supporting sustainable agriculture, President Biden today is announcing bold steps that will push the U.S. clean energy economy forward and create good-paying jobs,” according to a White House fact sheet.

Regulatory actions to tackle methane are largely focused on the oil and gas sector — which is responsible for 30 percent of the country’s methane emissions. Agriculture, which is the largest contributor, is targeted through voluntary — not mandatory — actions.

One major piece of the plan is long-awaited regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on oil and gas production.

The EPA will propose to both broaden and strengthen existing regulations on new oil and gas facilities and, for the first time, require states to develop plans to reduce emissions from existing facilities across the country.

According to the White House, the proposed EPA rules will cut methane emissions from impacted pollution sources by about 75 percent. It also noted that the actions would also reduce the prevalence of smog-forming compounds and air toxics.

A White House report also teased a supplemental proposal expected next year  that could regulate methane from abandoned and unplugged oil and gas wells — as well as additional unregulated sources. 

The White House report also said that the Interior Department will try to disincentive the release or burning of excess gas, by proposing a regulation requiring oil and gas drillers to pay fees to the government for what’s released or burned off.

Methane is the main component of natural gas.

The Biden administration also said it will implement a bipartisan law requiring pipeline operators to cut methane leaks.

Pursuant to the White House’s call for voluntary, incentive-based approaches for the agriculture industry, the Agriculture Department will pursue the adoption of alternate ways of managing manure that cuts emissions, expanded renewable energy generated on farms and increased investments in innovations to tackle methane from the sector.

Prior to Tuesday’s announcements, the U.S. and European Union (EU) had previously launched a global initiative aimed at cutting 30 percent of the world’s methane emissions in half by 2030, although individual signatories won’t have to cut their own emissions by that much and will instead do what they are able to.

The White House announced on Tuesday that more than 90 governments  — including 15 major emitters —  had joined the pledge.

Proponents of tackling methane emissions have argued that it can be a quick way to lessen global warming since methane is more potent than carbon dioxide but spends less time in the atmosphere.

It particularly came into the spotlight after a major climate report from the UN in August called for “strong, rapid and sustained reductions” of the gas’s releases to limit warming.

Meanwhile, the fact sheet also announced some non-methane climate goals.

It also announced a plan to conserve forests based on objectives it has previously endorsed like ending natural forest loss by 2030 and restoring forestlands. It said the plan contains goals like incentivizing forest conservation. The plan aims to put $9 billion in international climate funding to support these efforts by 2030 if Congress approves.

It also aims to accelerate action at the energy department to advance new technology aimed at removing carbon dioxide from the air. This so-called “Carbon Negative Shot” is the latest of three several “Earthshot” initiatives the department is taking on in order to combat climate change.

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