Biden administration set to limit methane, a potent greenhouse gas

GLASGOW – The Biden administration said on Tuesday it would heavily regulate methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that gushes out...


GLASGOW – The Biden administration said on Tuesday it would heavily regulate methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that gushes out of oil and natural gas operations and can heat the atmosphere 80 times faster than carbon dioxide in the short term.

For the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency intends to limit methane from about one million existing oil and gas platforms in the United States. The federal government previously had rules to prevent methane leaks from oil and gas wells built since 2015, but they were repealed by the Trump administration. Mr Biden intends to restore and strengthen them, aides said. Older oil and gas rigs tend to release more methane than newer systems.

The announcement came as more than 100 countries around the world gathered at a United Nations climate change summit here to pledge to reduce global methane emissions by 30% by 2030. If they succeed , this will amount to eliminating emissions from every car, truck, plane and boat, said Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency.

“It’s huge,” Birol said at an event where countries presented their methane plans.

President Biden called the deal a “game-changing commitment” and insisted the new efforts will help create jobs to manufacture methane detection technology while employing pipe fitters and welders to plug. abandoned wells and plugging leaking pipes.

“It will boost our economies,” he said.

Mr Biden is in Glasgow this week for a United Nations conference climate summit, where he tries persuade other countries to reduce emissions fossil fuels that heat the planet to dangerous levels.

The methane announcement comes as Mr. Biden faces intense pressure both internationally and nationally to show that the United States, the country that has pumped the most greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, is committed to mitigating climate change.

Mr Biden has set an ambitious goal of reducing emissions produced by the United States this decade to about 50% below 2005 levels, but legislation to help him meet that goal is stuck in Congress. This leaves the administration to defer to regulations and other executive measures.

The White House also announced other new climate initiatives on Tuesday, including a plan to protect tropical forests and an effort to accelerate clean technologies.

In addition to the rule proposed by the EPA, the U.S. Department of Transportation has introduced regulations to reduce methane leaks from natural gas pipelines, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced it will work with farmers. and pastoralists on ways to reduce methane from livestock.

The centerpiece, however, is the EPA’s proposed methane regulation.

Methane is the second most abundant greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, and it is responsible for more than a quarter of the global warming that the planet is currently experiencing. It dissipates from the atmosphere faster than carbon dioxide, but is more powerful at heating the atmosphere in the short term.

An odorless, colorless, flammable gas, methane is produced through landfills, agriculture, animal husbandry, and oil and gas drilling. It is sometimes intentionally burned or released into the atmosphere during gas production.

As concentrations of methane in the atmosphere have increased, environmentalists have become increasingly concerned about its role in climate change.

According to the EPA, the regulations, when finalized, will reduce 41 million tonnes of methane emissions from 2023 to 2035, or the equivalent of 920 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide. This is more than the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by all U.S. passenger cars and commercial planes in 2019, the agency said.

But Republicans in Congress have said Mr Biden’s promises in Glasgow will hurt Americans at home. “The president wants to kill off abundant and affordable US energy sources like oil, natural gas and coal that Americans depend on,” Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso said in a statement. He called the White House plans a “recipe for disaster” that would lead to a shortage of affordable energy.

West Virginia Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito criticized the methane regulations saying they “demonize an industry which is the lifeblood of our economy.”

The oil and gas industry is divided over methane regulation.

Josh Hicks, a spokesperson for BP, said in a statement that the oil company “applauds” the new rules. The company called the move “a critical step in helping the United States reach net zero by 2050 or earlier” and said regulating methane emissions will help prevent leaks.

Karen Harbert, president of the American Gas Association, which represents some of the nation’s largest gas utilities, said her group supports the new federal regulations.

Ms Harbert noted that methane emissions from natural gas had declined by 73% since 1990. But, she said, “we recognize that we need to pull ourselves together and hit that last percentage.” She called the regulation the “best possible approach” to creating standard rules in the industry.

However, small oil and gas producers fear that the new rules will create heavy burdens that put them into bankruptcy. The American Petroleum Institute covered, saying in a statement it supported methane regulation but abstained from commenting on the new rule.

The proposed regulations could take time to put in place, are likely to face legal challenges and could be overturned by a future administration, observers say.

“When a president tries to use unilateral executive powers, there are immediately a series of obstacles,” said Barry Rabe, professor of environmental policy at the University of Michigan. “It won’t be an easy transition.

In addition to reducing greenhouse gases, regulating methane will protect public health, EPA officials said.

When methane is released into the atmosphere, it is often accompanied by dangerous chemicals like benzene and hydrogen sulfide. Exposure to these pollutants has been linked to serious health problems including asthma and cancer.

Sue Franklin knows the effects firsthand. She and her husband, Jim, lived in the West Texas town of Verhalen, where oil and gas drilling operations took off around 2014.

Gas escaped from two new wells and gave the couple headaches, nosebleeds and asthma attacks.

The Franklin’s eventually moved about 40 miles, but Ms Franklin, 70, said she feared she would have breathing problems for the rest of her life.

“It will never get better; the damage has been done, ”Franklin said when she and her husband traveled to Washington, DC to protest new fossil fuel projects. Ms Franklin said she believed new regulations governing oil and gas wells would help, but only up to a point.

“We were the luckiest,” she said. ” We went out. Others still live with it. I would love to see them actually close.

The oil and gas industry is united against a separate congressional effort to impose charges on methane leaks from oil and gas wells as part of a larger budget bill.

The methane levy is designed to both increase revenue and reduce greenhouse pollution. Experts said the two-pronged approach was needed to stop methane emissions.

The levy would apply to the largest oil and gas companies, those that emit more than 25,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases each year. These companies would pay $ 900 per tonne of methane leakage from 2024, rising to $ 1,500 per tonne from 2026 to 2030.

Oil and gas producers are pushing for the methane royalty to be removed from current legislation on Capitol Hill.

Anne Bradbury, chief executive of the American Exploration and Production Council, which represents oil and gas companies, said punitive costs and taxes that would put American producers at a disadvantage, increase Americans’ energy costs and cause the loss of $ 90,000 jobs across the country.

She called the EPA’s regulatory process “the right way to tackle methane emissions in the United States.”

Methane regulations have a fractured history in Washington.

President Barack Obama first proposed rules to reduce methane from new and modified gas wells in 2016, and finalized them when leaving office. Republicans tried but failed to kill them in 2017 using an obscure law known as the Congressional Review Act, which allows lawmakers to overturn rules within 60 legislative days of their finalization.

The Home Office and EPA repealed Mr. Obama’s methane regulations as President Donald J. Trump stepped down.

In April, Democrats dabbled in rolling out the Congressional Review Act and managed to vote for kill Mr. Trump’s flashback.

According to the EPA, the proposed rule will create a monitoring program under which companies will be required to find and repair methane leaks, often referred to as “fugitive emissions,” at new and compressor well sites and compressor stations. existing.

Mark Brownstein, senior vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund, said the technology to reduce methane emissions exists. Operators can install vapor recovery systems in storage tanks, ensure pressure relief valves do not get stuck, and replace leaking hoses.

“This is not a witch doctor,” Mr. Brownstein said. “It’s auto mechanics.”

Davenport Coral contributed reports.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Biden administration set to limit methane, a potent greenhouse gas
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