GLASGOW — The Biden administration said Tuesday that it would heavily regulate methane, a potent greenhouse gasThis is a byproduct of oil and natural gas operations, and can heat the atmosphere 80 times faster than carbon dioxide in the short-term.
The Environmental Protection Agency plans to limit methane from about one million existing oil-and-gas rigs in the United States. This is the first time that this has been done. The federal government had previously established rules to prevent methane leaking from oil and gas wells that were built after 2015. However, they were repealed by Trump’s administration. Aides said that Mr. Biden will restore and strengthen them.
This week, Mr. Biden will be in Glasgow for a United Nations conference climate summit? where he is tryingto persuade countries to reduce their emissions emissionsThe planet is being heated by fossil fuels.
The methane announcement comes at a time when Mr. Biden is under intense pressure to prove that the United States, which has pumped the largest amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in the past, is serious about reducing climate change.
Although Mr. Biden has set a bold target to reduce the United States’ emissions by 50 percent in the next decade, legislation to support him is still stalled in Congress. This leaves the administration with only regulations and other executive actions.
According to senior administration officials briefed journalists Monday, the White House will announce other climate initiatives on Tuesday, including a plan for tropical forests protection and a push for clean technology speedup.
The proposed regulation on methane is however the main focus. Monday’s speech by Mr. Biden to world leaders in Glasgow highlighted the fact that 70 countries have adopted methane regulation. joined a coalitionThe United States and the European Union are leading the effort to reduce global methane levels by at least 30% by 2030.
“I encourage every nation to sign on,” Mr. Biden said, calling it the “single most effective strategy we have to slow global warming in the near term.”
Methane is the second most abundant greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, and it’s responsible for more than a quarter of the warming the planet is currently experiencing. It is less reactive than carbon dioxide, but it is more effective at heating the atmosphere in the short-term.
An odorless, colorless, flammable gas, methane is producedIt can be disposed of in landfills, by livestock, or oil and gas drilling. Sometimes, it is intentionally burned or released into the atmosphere as part of gas production.
Environmentalists are becoming more concerned about the role of methane in climate change as atmospheric concentrations have increased.
According to the E.P.A. the regulation will reduce 41,000,000 tons of methane emitted from 2023 to 2030, which is the equivalent of 920,000,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide. This is more than the carbon dioxide emitted by all U.S. passenger cars in 2019 and commercial aircraft, the agency stated.
“With this historic action, E.P.A. is addressing existing sources from the oil and natural gas industry nationwide, in addition to updating rules for new sources, to ensure robust and lasting cuts in pollution across the country,” the agency’s administrator, Michael S. Regan, said in a statement.
But Republicans in Congress said Mr. Biden’s promises in Glasgow would hurt Americans at home. “The president wants to kill abundant and affordable U.S. energy sources like oil, natural gas and coal that Americans depend on,” Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming, said in a statement. He called the White House plans “a recipe for disaster” that would lead to a shortage of affordable energy.
The methane plan has divided the oil and gas industries.
Karen Harbert, president of the American Gas Association, which represents some of the country’s largest producers, said her group supported new federal regulations, though she noted she had not seen the details.
Ms. Harbert pointed out that natural gas methane emissions have declined by 73% since 1990. But, she said, “we recognize we need to button up and get to that last percentage.” She called regulation “the best possible approach” to creating standard rules across the industry.
However, small oil and gas producers are concerned that the new rules will place them under unnecessary burdens that could force them out of business.
The proposed regulations could take some time to implement, could face legal challenges, and could be reversed by future administrations, observers say.
“As a president tries to use unilateral executive powers, there are immediately a set of hurdles,” said Barry Rabe, a professor of environmental policy at the University of Michigan. “It’s not going to be an easy transition.”
E.P.A. said that in addition to reducing greenhouse gasses, regulation of methane would protect public health. officials.
Methane released into the atmosphere is often accompanied by dangerous chemicals like benzene, hydrogen sulfide, and other hazardous chemicals. These pollutants have been linked to a variety of health problems. serious health problemsAsthma and cancer are included.
Sue Franklin is a firsthand witness to the devastating effects. Jim Franklin, her husband lived in Verhalen West Texas, where oil-and-gas drilling operations began around 2014.
Two new wells were leaking gases that caused headaches, nosebleeds, and asthma attacks in the couple.
The Franklins moved about 40 miles away. Ms. Franklin, however, stated that she was afraid she would suffer from respiratory problems for the rest her life.
“It’s never going to get better; the damage has been done,” Ms. Franklin said when she and her husband traveled to Washington, D.C., to protest new fossil fuel projects. Ms. Franklin stated that she believed new regulations regarding oil and gas wells would be beneficial, but only to a certain extent.
“We were the lucky ones,” she said. “We got out. Others still live with this. I’d like to see them actually shut down.”
The oil and gas industry has unified against a separate attempt by Congress to impose a methane fee from oil and natural gas wells as part a larger budget bill.
The methane fee is intended to increase revenue and lower greenhouse pollution. Experts agree that the double-pronged approach to methane emission reduction is necessary.
The fee would be charged to the largest oil companies that emit more than 250,000 tons of greenhouse gases annually. These companies would be required to pay $900 per tonne of methane leaked, starting in 2024 and increasing to $1,500 per tonne from 2026 to 2030.
Oil and gas producers are lobbying hard for the removal of the methane fee in the legislation that is currently pending at Capitol Hill.
Anne Bradbury, chief executive of the American Exploration and Production Council, which represents oil and gas companies, said: “This new, poorly constructed natural gas tax, on top of regulatory costs being imposed through compliance with forthcoming E.P.A. methane rules, would be additional costs and punitive taxes that would disadvantage American producers, increase Americans’ energy costs and cause 90,000 jobs lost across the country.”
Washington’s history of methane regulations is a bit fractured.
President Barack Obama first proposed rulesHe worked to reduce methane emissions from modified and new gas wells in 2016 and completed them before he left office. Republicans tried unsuccessfully to kill them in 2017. They used an obscure law known the Congressional Review Act which allows lawmakers to change rules within 60 legislative day after they have been finalized.
The Interior Department and E.P.A. repealed Mr. Obama’s methane regulations as President Donald J. Trump was leaving office.
In April, Democrats tried their hand to deploy the Congressional Review Act. kill Mr. Trump’s rollback.
According to the E.P.A., the proposed rule will create a monitoring program under which companies will be required to find and fix methane leaks, often called “fugitive emissions,” at new and existing well sites and compressor stations.
Mark Brownstein, a senior vice-president at the Environmental Defense Fund, stated that there is technology to reduce methane omissions. Operators can install vapor recovery systems in storage tanks, make sure pressure relief valves don’t get stuck open and replace leaking pipes.
“This is not about rocket science,” Mr. Brownstein said. “This is auto mechanics.”
Coral DavenportContributed reporting