The Biden administration presented sweeping regulations targeting the oil and gas industry Tuesday in an effort to cut back on the emission of methane, a greenhouse gas more harmful than carbon dioxide in the short term.
The proposals, announced at the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, known as COP26, mark the first time the federal government has offered a comprehensive rules package to limit the release of methane.
Speaking in Scotland, Mr. Biden said the initiatives are critical to meet world leaders’ goal of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“One of the most important things we can do in this decisive decade to keep 1.5 in reach is to reduce our methane emissions as quickly as possible,” Mr. Biden said. “It amounts to half of the global warming we’re experiencing today.”
The president said that if these initiatives are enacted, the U.S. could “probably go beyond” the target of cutting methane emissions by 30% by 2030.
Proposed rules from the Environmental Protection Agency could establish stricter standards for maintaining old natural gas wells, impose more frequent leak monitoring and require capturing natural gas found alongside oil that is released into the atmosphere.
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The Transportation Department will finalize a rule Tuesday to bolster federal pipeline safety standards for more than 400,000 miles of currently unregulated onshore gathering lines.
In addition, for the first time, states will be required to develop plans to reduce emissions from existing facilities across the country.
The Department of the Interior will require oil and gas drillers to pay a fee for burning off excess gas, thus creating a disincentive to continue the practice.
A White House fact sheet estimates that the proposed rules will reduce methane emissions from impacted pollution sources by as much as 75%. It also estimates that it will reduce air toxins and compounds that form smog.
“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,” the fact sheet said.
The EPA proposal alone is estimated to cut emissions by about 41 million tons through 2035, the equivalent of taking more than 200 million cars off the road next year, the White House said.
The White House also hinted that another proposed rule to regulate methane from abandoned and unplugged oil and gas wells could be released next year.
Methane is said to be worse for the climate than carbon dioxide and is responsible for 10% of the U.S. contribution to climate change.
All of the rule proposals will likely help Mr. Biden signal to other nations that he is serious about taking action to combat climate change, even as members within his own party are threatening to derail his climate agenda.
Last month, Mr. Biden jettisoned a key climate change initiative from his massive social spending bill amid opposition from centrist Democrats. He dropped the Clean Energy Performance Program, which would pay electric companies that switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources and impose fines on those that don’t. The proposal was favored by progressive Democrats.
Christopher Guith, senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute, hailed the proposed rules on methane emissions.
“We applaud the work the Biden Administration has done to begin regulating methane emissions. Industry agrees that curbing methane emissions is crucial to combating climate change and is investing in technologies that will achieve this goal,” he said in a statement.
“The Chamber supports both direct regulation of methane and increased voluntary reductions in a manner that allows for continued domestic energy production, technological innovation, and follows the appropriate process in the Clean Air Act,” the statement continued.
Steve Milloy, a climate change skeptic who has authored books on the EPA, says the new proposals will do little to cut methane emissions while driving up the price of oil and gas.
“Not only will consumers pointlessly be paying more for natural gas, but natural gas supplies will be constrained as smaller and independent frackers will be forced out of business by expensive rules that favor Big Oil,” he said in a statement.