As part of an international effort to reduce emissions that fuel climate change, the Biden administration published final regulations on Saturday that aim to severely punish methane leaks from the US oil and gas industry.
The United States unveiled a comprehensive strategy at COP28 to dramatically reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations. Methane, a potent greenhouse gas with a warming potential 80 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe, is considered a “super pollutant” due to its disproportionate impact on global warming.
It is anticipated that the US and other summit participants would provide specifics on how they plan to carry out a two-year-old commitment by 150 countries to reduce methane emissions by 30% from 2020 levels by 2030.
Drill sites, gas pipelines, and other oil and gas infrastructure frequently release methane into the atmosphere without anyone noticing. Limiting methane emissions can have a more immediate effect on slowing down climate change since it has a greater warming potential than carbon dioxide and degrades more quickly in the atmosphere.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized new regulations aimed at curbing methane leaks from existing oil and gas facilities, a move that is expected to prevent an estimated 58 million tons of methane emissions from reaching the atmosphere between 2024 and 2038. These regulations are projected to achieve nearly the equivalent of all carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector in the year 2021.
“Methane is a short-lived climate pollutant, meaning that we can make rapid progress in reducing its emissions and reaping significant benefits for the climate,” stated EPA Administrator Michael Regan. “These new regulations and voluntary measures will help us achieve our ambitious methane reduction goals and contribute to the global effort to address climate change.”
Vice President Kamala Harris stated that the Biden administration had reinstated the United States as a global leader in the battle against climate change, citing the methane rules as one of several U.S. efforts to combat global warming.
“Today, we are demonstrating through action how the world can and must meet this crisis,” Harris she told the conference.
The U.S. strategy aligns with the Global Methane Pledge, an initiative launched in 2021 to collectively reduce global methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030 from 2020 levels. The United States joins over 100 countries that have committed to the pledge, demonstrating a strong international consensus on the urgency of addressing methane emissions.
Methane emissions reductions boost human health, enhance air quality, and slow down global warming. Natural gas mostly consists of methane, and leaks from gas and oil facilities add to the development of ozone, a dangerous air pollutant that can lead to respiratory issues.