US Announces Tough New Methane Rules On Oil And Gas Industry

It would also establish standards requiring reductions in emissions from equipment such as pumps, controllers, and storage tanks.

US Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during the High-Level Segment for Heads of State and Government session at the United Nations climate summit in Dubai on December 2, 2023. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)



US President Joe Biden’s administration on Saturday announced it would tighten curbs on methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, a critical step toward meeting its commitments to reduce the powerful greenhouse gas.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made the announcement during the COP28 climate talks in the UAE, where the host country, the United States and China were set to hold talks on methane and other non-carbon dioxide gases.

Methane — which is potent but relatively short-lived — is a key target for countries wanting to slash emissions quickly and slow climate change. It is responsible for about one-third of the warming from greenhouse gases occurring today.

“The finalization of these methane standards addresses a glaring regulatory gap,” said Julie McNamara of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“For far too long, oil and gas companies have been allowed to spew methane and serious health-harming pollutants without any limits — all while shoving the towering costs of that pollution onto people and the environment.”

The new standards would phase in a requirement to eliminate routine flaring of natural gas produced by oil wells and require comprehensive monitoring of methane leaks from wells and compression stations.

It would also establish standards requiring reductions in emissions from equipment such as pumps, controllers, and storage tanks.

The United States initially proposed rules in 2021 and 2022, with the latest action building upon those after receiving a million public comments.

The EPA estimated it would prevent an estimated 58 million tons of methane emissions from 2024 to 2038, the equivalent of 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide.

“In 2030 alone, the expected reductions are equivalent to 130 million metric tons of carbon dioxide — more than the annual emissions from 28 million gasoline cars,” the agency said in a statement.

In addition to methane, enacting the rule would reduce emissions of smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that cause respiratory problems including asthma attacks, as well as toxic air pollutants such as benzene that can cause cancer.

The United States and the EU led a “Global Methane Pledge” at COP26 in Glasgow. It now has 111 country participants who have vowed to reduce methane emissions by 30 percent below 2020 levels by 2030.

But an analysis of satellite data by environmental intelligence company Kayrros shows so far little progress among the signatories, save for Australia. US emissions are increasing.

McNamara said the new rules would not make fossil fuels “clean”.

“For the health and well-being of people across the country, and the world, this must only be an intermediate step on the path to a sharp wind-down of fossil fuels,” she said.