New Methane Emissions Regulation from the U.S. Targets Oil and Gas Industry to Address Global Warming

by Michael Nguyen
Methane Emissions Regulation

The U.S. government, under President Joe Biden, has introduced a definitive regulation to mitigate methane emissions, focusing on the oil and natural gas sector’s contribution to global warming. This move is a step in Biden’s journey to cement his environmental legacy.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed that this regulation will significantly decrease methane and other hazardous pollutants produced by the oil and gas sector. It emphasizes the adoption of advanced methane detection technologies and is expected to yield considerable public health improvements. This includes a reduction in hospital visits, school absenteeism, and even fatalities, as emissions from oil and gas activities are linked to cancer, and damage to the nervous and respiratory systems, as well as birth defects.

The announcement was made by EPA Administrator Michael Regan and White House climate advisor Ali Zaidi at the U.N. climate conference in the United Arab Emirates. Concurrently, the president of the climate summit reported that 50 oil companies, accounting for nearly half of the global production, have committed to achieving near-zero methane emissions and to cease routine flaring in their operations by 2030.

Methane emissions, predominantly from oil and gas operations, are a key contributor to global warming. This potent greenhouse gas, more impactful than carbon dioxide in the short term, is responsible for about a third of the global greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing methane emissions is thus a critical objective worldwide to decelerate climate change, a topic of significant interest at the COP28 conference.

World leaders, including presidents, prime ministers, and royals, have pledged to cut their nations’ emissions of greenhouse gases and urged others to follow suit. Regan highlighted President Biden’s commitment to climate change, referencing his immediate actions upon taking office, such as rejoining the Paris climate agreement and reviewing environmental regulations reversed by his predecessor.

This methane regulation, originally proposed by Biden at a U.N. climate conference in Scotland in 2021 and later expanded in Egypt, covers emissions from both new and existing oil and gas wells across the nation, a shift from previous regulations that focused only on new wells. It also includes smaller wells, which are now mandated to regularly inspect and repair methane leaks. These smaller wells, despite producing only 6% of the nation’s oil and gas, contribute up to half of the methane emissions from well sites.

Furthermore, the plan introduces a gradual requirement for energy companies to end the routine flaring of natural gas produced by new oil wells. Regan stated that this rule aligns with the international goal of reducing methane emissions by 30% by 2030, from the levels recorded in 2020.

Zaidi pointed out that this rule is one among over 100 initiatives undertaken by the Biden administration to curb methane emissions. The measures include significant investments to seal orphaned wells, repair leaky pipelines, restore abandoned mines, and enforce strict standards to reduce pollution from the oil and gas sector.

The rule complements a methane fee sanctioned in the 2022 climate law. This fee, effective from the following year, imposes charges on energy producers exceeding specific methane emission levels, up to $1,500 per metric ton. This initiative marks the first direct imposition of a fee or tax by the U.S. government on greenhouse gas emissions. The law also offers exemptions for companies adhering to EPA’s standards or those below a certain emission threshold, and allocates $1.5 billion in grants and other funds to aid companies and local communities in improving leak detection and repair.

Harold Wimmer, president and CEO of the American Lung Association, praised the new rule for its public health benefits, stating that it will substantially reduce hazardous air pollutants and methane emissions from the industry. He emphasized the importance of this rule for those living near oil and gas wells, underscoring its role in advancing environmental justice.

David Doniger, a climate specialist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, lauded the Biden plan for significantly tackling climate pollution, expressing his wish for such actions to have been taken earlier. Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, commended the rule for establishing the most stringent methane pollution limits, signaling a global shift towards addressing methane as a critical climate risk.

While the oil industry generally supports federal regulation of methane emissions for consistency, there have been requests for exemptions for the nation’s smallest wells from these impending regulations.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Methane Emissions Regulation

What is the main focus of the Biden administration’s new rule?

The new rule aims to reduce methane emissions from the U.S. oil and natural gas industry as part of efforts to address global warming.

How will the new methane rule impact public health?

The rule is expected to significantly reduce air pollutants and methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, leading to fewer hospital visits, reduced school absenteeism, and decreased mortality rates.

Where was the new methane emissions rule announced?

EPA Administrator Michael Regan and White House climate adviser Ali Zaidi announced the rule at the U.N. climate conference in the United Arab Emirates.

What are the key features of the new methane regulation?

The regulation targets emissions from both existing and new oil and gas wells, mandates regular inspections and repairs of methane leaks, especially in smaller wells, and phases in a requirement to eliminate routine flaring of natural gas in new oil wells.

What is the global significance of the U.S. methane emissions rule?

The rule aligns with an international goal to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030 from 2020 levels, marking a significant step in global efforts to mitigate climate change.

How does the new rule integrate with the 2022 climate law?

The rule is complemented by a methane fee set in the 2022 climate law, which charges energy producers for exceeding specific methane emission levels, incentivizing compliance with EPA standards.

More about Methane Emissions Regulation

  • Methane Emissions and Climate Change
  • Biden Administration’s Environmental Policies
  • Impact of Methane on Global Warming
  • U.S. Oil and Gas Industry Regulations
  • Public Health and Air Pollution
  • EPA Standards and Environmental Justice
  • Global Climate Agreements and Goals
  • Innovations in Methane Detection Technology
  • Energy Industry Emissions and Regulations
  • Environmental Laws and Climate Action Initiatives

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EcoWarrior December 2, 2023 - 2:03 pm

This is a step in the right direction! Methane is a major player in global warming, glad to see it getting the attention it deserves.

TommyG December 3, 2023 - 12:48 am

i don’t get why we always have to target the oil and gas sector, what about other industries? seems a bit one-sided to me

Jenny Green December 3, 2023 - 4:17 am

wow this is huge, the Biden admin is really stepping up on climate change…finally some serious action on methane emissions

Sarah K December 3, 2023 - 7:38 am

Its about time we see some real changes, I hope other countries follow suit. Climate change is no joke!

Mike_1985 December 3, 2023 - 10:07 am

Not sure how this will affect the oil industry, could mean higher costs? but i guess it’s for the better good


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