US--COP28-US-Methane Emissions 12/02 06:57
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Biden administration on Saturday issued a final rule
aimed at reducing methane emissions, targeting the U.S. oil and natural gas
industry for its role in global warming as President Joe Biden seeks to advance
his climate legacy.
The Environmental Protection Agency said the new rule will sharply reduce
methane and other harmful air pollutants generated by the oil and gas industry,
promote use of cutting-edge methane detection technologies and deliver
significant public health benefits in the form of reduced hospital visits, lost
school days and even deaths. Air pollution from oil and gas operations can
cause cancer, harm the nervous and respiratory systems and contribute to birth
EPA Administrator Michael Regan and White House Climate adviser Ali Zaidi
announced the final rule at the United Nations climate conference in Dubai,
United Arab Emirates.
Oil and gas operations are the largest industrial source of methane, the
main component in natural gas and far more potent than carbon dioxide in the
short term. It is responsible for about one-third of planet-warming greenhouse
gas emissions. Sharp cuts in methane emissions are a global priority to slow
the rate of climate change and are a major topic at the climate conference,
known as COP28.
Presidents, prime ministers and royals from nations rich and poor have vowed
to reduce how much their countries spew heat-trapping gases and asked their
colleagues to do better.
"On day one, President Biden restored America's critical role as the global
leader in confronting climate change,'' Regan said, referring to Biden's
actions returning the U.S. to the Paris climate agreement and ordering an
immediate review of environmental regulations rolled back by the previous
The methane rule finalizes a proposal Biden made at a UN climate conference
in Scotland in 2021 and expanded a year later at a climate conference in Egypt.
The rule backs up Biden's initial commitments "with strong action,
significantly slashing methane emissions and other air pollutants that endanger
communities," Regan said.
The rule targets emissions from existing oil and gas wells nationwide,
rather than focusing only on new wells as previous EPA regulations have done.
It also regulates smaller wells that will be required to find and plug methane
leaks. Small wells currently are subject to an initial inspection but are
rarely checked again for leaks.
Studies have found that smaller wells produce just 6% of the nation's oil
and gas but account for up to half the methane emissions from well sites.
The plan also will phase in a requirement for energy companies to eliminate
routine flaring of natural gas that is produced by new oil wells.
The new methane rule will help ensure that the United States meets a goal
set by more than 100 nations to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030 from 2020
levels, Regan said.
The EPA rule is just one of more than 100 actions the Biden administration
has taken to reduce methane emissions, Zaidi added.
"From mobilizing billions in investment to plug orphaned wells, patch leaky
pipes and reclaim abandoned mines, to setting strong standards that will cut
pollution from the oil and gas sector, the Biden-Harris Administration is
putting the full throw-weight of the federal government into slashing harmful
methane pollution,'' he said.
The new methane rule will be coordinated with a methane fee approved in the
2022 climate law. The fee, set to take effect next year, will charge energy
producers that exceed a certain level of methane emissions as much as $1,500
per metric ton of methane. The plan marks the first time the U.S. government
has directly imposed a fee, or tax, on greenhouse gas emissions.
The law allows exemptions for companies that comply with the EPA's standards
or fall below a certain emissions threshold. It also includes $1.5 billon in
grants and other spending to help companies and local communities improve
monitoring and data collection, and find and repair natural gas leaks.
Harold Wimmer, president and CEO of the American Lung Association, called
the new rule a victory for public health.
"EPA heeded the urgent guidance of health experts across the country and
finalized a strong methane rule that, when fully implemented, will
significantly reduce hazardous air pollutants and climate-warming methane
pollution from the oil and gas industry,'' he said in a statement.
Methane has been shown to leak into the atmosphere during every stage of oil
and gas production, Wimmer said, and "people who live near oil and gas wells
are especially vulnerable to these exposure risks. This rule (is) vital to
advancing environmental justice commitments.''
David Doniger, a climate expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council,
called methane a "super-polluter." He said in an interview that the Biden plan
"takes a very solid whack at climate pollution. I wish this had happened 10
years ago (under the Obama administration), but I'm really happy it's happening
Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, said the new rule
ensures that "the U.S. now has the most protective methane pollution limits on
the books. With other countries also zeroing in on methane as a key climate
risk, it's a signal to operators worldwide that clean-up time is here,'' he
The oil industry has generally welcomed direct federal regulation of methane
emissions, preferring a single national standard to a hodgepodge of state
rules. Even so, energy companies have asked EPA to exempt hundreds of thousands
of the nation's smallest wells from the pending methane rules.