Biden administration unveils oil and gas rules to cut methane emissions

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The Biden administration presented sweeping regulations targeting the oil and gas industry Tuesday in an effort to cut back on the emission of methane, a greenhouse gas more harmful than carbon dioxide in the short term.

The proposals, announced at the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, known as COP26, mark the first time the federal government has offered a comprehensive rules package to limit the release of methane.

Proposed rules from the Environmental Protection Agency could establish stricter standards for maintaining old natural gas wells, impose more frequent leak monitoring and require capturing natural gas found alongside oil that is released into the atmosphere.

The Transportation Department will finalize a rule Tuesday to bolster federal pipeline safety standards for more than 400,000 miles of currently unregulated onshore gathering lines.

In addition, for the first time, states will be required to develop plans to reduce emissions from existing facilities across the country.

The Department of the Interior will require oil and gas drillers to pay a fee for burning off excess gas, thus creating a disincentive to continue the practice.

A White House fact sheet estimates that the proposed rules will reduce methane emissions from impacted pollution sources by as much as 75%. It also estimates that it will reduce air toxins and compounds that form smog.

“Through tackling methane emissions, spurring innovations, and supporting sustainable agriculture, President Biden today is announcing bold steps that will push the U.S. clean energy economy forward and create good-paying jobs,” the fact sheet said.

The EPA proposal alone is estimated to cut emissions by about 41 million tons through 2035, the equivalent of taking more than 200 million cars off the road next year, the White House said.

The White House also hinted that another proposed rule to regulate methane from abandoned and unplugged oil and gas wells could be released next year.

Methane is said to be worse for the climate than carbon dioxide and is responsible for 10% of the U.S.’ contribution to climate change. 

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