In a significant move to combat climate change, the Biden administration has unveiled final rules aimed at curbing the release of methane by the oil and gas industry in the United States. The announcement, made by U.S. officials at the United Nations COP28 climate change conference in Dubai, comes as part of a broader international plan to address emissions contributing to global warming. Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, often escapes undetected from drilling sites, pipelines, and other equipment related to oil and gas operations. But with the implementation of these rules, the Biden administration aims to rein in methane emissions, which have a more immediate impact on climate change compared to carbon dioxide.
The rules set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) include several key measures to reduce methane emissions. One of the key provisions is the banning of routine flaring of natural gas from newly drilled oil wells. Additionally, oil companies will be required to actively monitor for leaks at well sites and compressor stations. The EPA also plans to implement a program that utilizes third-party remote sensing to detect significant methane releases from what are known as “super emitters.” These comprehensive and stringent policies aim to align the United States with its international commitments to combat climate change while improving air quality for communities across the country.
Methane, compared to carbon dioxide, has greater warming potential and breaks down faster in the atmosphere. By effectively reducing methane emissions, the United States can have a more immediate and tangible impact on limiting climate change. The EPA estimates that the implementation of these rules would prevent approximately 58 million tons of methane emissions from entering the atmosphere between 2024 and 2038. This reduction is nearly equivalent to the total carbon dioxide emissions produced by the power sector in the year 2021. Therefore, the Biden administration’s methane crackdown holds great promise for mitigating climate change in a relatively short span of time.
The United States, by committing to these methane regulations, aims to lead by example and encourage other countries to take similar measures. New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, whose state has already implemented methane regulations, sees this as an opportunity for the United States to showcase its commitment to environmental stewardship. By holding polluters accountable and adopting effective strategies to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the United States can inspire the whole world to collectively address climate change.
Environmental groups have lauded these new rules, recognizing the crucial role they play in curbing climate pollution while protecting the health and safety of workers and communities residing near fossil fuel extraction sites. Earthjustice, a prominent environmental law organization, praises the methane standards as essential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Jill Tauber, Earthjustice’s vice president of litigation for climate and energy, emphasizes the importance of strong methane regulations in advancing climate goals.
The EPA estimates that the implementation of these regulations will yield climate and health benefits of up to $7.6 billion annually until 2038. Additionally, the rules are expected to increase the recovery of natural gas by up to $13 billion over the same time period. These economic benefits further underscore the significance of the Biden administration’s methane crackdown, as it showcases the potential for environmentally conscious policies to align with economic growth and sustainability.
While the final rules align with the Biden administration’s commitment to climate change mitigation, they do differ slightly from the draft proposals released by the EPA in previous years. One notable change is the extended compliance timeline, granting the industry more time to adapt to these regulations. Furthermore, the Super Emitter Program has been modified to ensure that third parties report methane leaks directly to the EPA for verification, rather than directly to the companies themselves. This modification addresses concerns raised by the oil and gas industry regarding the distribution of power and information.
The American Petroleum Institute (API), a trade group representing the oil and gas industry, has stated that it is reviewing the finalized rule. Recognizing the importance of balancing emissions reduction with meeting rising energy demands, the API acknowledges the significance of the Biden administration’s efforts. Dustin Meyer, API’s senior vice president of policy, economics, and regulatory affairs, highlights the need for a comprehensive approach that considers both environmental sustainability and energy production.
The Biden administration’s unveiling of final rules aimed at reducing methane emissions demonstrates a significant step towards addressing climate change. These regulations, designed to combat emissions from the oil and gas industry, align the United States with international commitments and set a precedent for other countries to follow suit. With the potential to mitigate climate change, improve air quality, and yield economic benefits, these rules showcase the power of environmental stewardship. By striking a balance between emissions reduction and energy demand, the Biden administration’s approach marks a crucial milestone in the transition to a more sustainable future.