EPA to regulate methane leaks from oil and gas to fight climate change

EPA to regulate methane leaks from oil and gas to fight climate change


SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt — In an effort to show U.S. commitment to fighting climate change, the Biden administration presented Egypt with a renewed effort to reduce emissions from domestic oil and gas producers .

At the United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP27, on Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled an updated proposal to regulate methane seeping from pipes and other equipment fueled by the US oil and gas industry, the country’s largest industrial source of the potent greenhouse gas. .

Responsible for about a third of global warming greenhouse gases today, methane traps about 80 times more heat than carbon dioxide in its first 20 years in the atmosphere. Experts say reducing methane emissions is key to preventing near-term warming.

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The proposal, which was partially released at last year’s climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, would be the first time the federal government would require existing facilities to find and repair methane leaks.

“These are critical, common-sense standards that will protect workers, protect communities … and dramatically reduce dangerous pollutants that threaten our planet,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said at a conference. press in Egypt.

Under the proposal, the agency seeks to require oil and gas operators to use remote sensors to quickly address leaks and to require states to develop plans to reduce methane from older wells. Gathering feedback from industry over the past year, the EPA plans to offer companies more flexibility in how they monitor for leaks.

Federal regulators will also establish a program to respond to blowouts and other “super-emitter” events, allowing third-party groups to help identify major leaks quickly.

Officials say the regulations will reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by one percentage point below 2005 levels, adding to the roughly 40% reduction expected from the Reduction Act of inflation adopted earlier this year. A methane royalty program included in this legislation would require oil and gas to pay for all emissions above a certain threshold, which would incentivize operators to comply with the new regulations, Regan said.

The rule is also expected to help the country fulfill the “Global Methane Pledge” – a US-backed effort to cut emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas by 30% by 2030. Although more than 100 countries have signed the pledge since its launch in 2021, a recent report by the World Meteorological Organization found that methane emissions this year are rising faster than ever.

The new regulations come the same day President Biden is due to speak at the Egyptian climate conference, an apparent attempt to highlight US climate efforts and convince more nations to join the commitment on methane. Three of the world’s top five methane emitters – China, India and Russia – have not joined the initiative.

“We continue to accelerate and increase the pace of climate action in the United States and around the world,” White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi told reporters on Friday. He said the United States was committed to “eliminating emissions wherever we find them.”

But when asked if the United States would support the creation of a fund for climate damage in developing countries – one of the biggest issues of the COP27 conference – the Zaidi side escalated the question. , saying only that Biden is committed to “partnership and solidarity” with people in the face of climate impacts around the world.

The theme of the day was ‘decarbonization’, and the morning began with the announcement of a new ‘breakthrough agenda’ by dozens of countries representing more than half of the world’s gross domestic product. Nations have committed to 25 emission reduction actions over the next year; among them, accelerating the deployment of zero-carbon industrial facilities, modernizing electricity grids and setting a common goal of phasing out gasoline-powered vehicles.

The United Nations also announced on Friday the launch of a public satellite system to detect major methane releases from the energy, waste and agricultural sectors.

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Lauren Pagel, director of policy at Earthworks, an environmental group that uses infrared cameras to spot leaks, hailed the EPA’s extensive monitoring of super-emitters as “essential to enforcing the rules.”

“Wherever our certified thermographers go, they find oil and gas pollution — even in the most protected states,” she said.

But other researchers have warned that preventing leaks will not be enough to meet global methane targets or limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) – the threshold at which scientists say that humanity can avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change. According to data from Climate Watch and the World Resources Institute, “fugitive emissions” from the oil and gas production process account for only 3.9% of global greenhouse gas pollution.

Mia Moisio, who leads the Climate Action Tracker project for the Germany-based NewClimate Institute, said research shows that methane emissions from the energy sector need to drop 64% by 2030 for the world to reach zero. target of 1.5 degrees Celsius. To achieve this reduction, global natural gas consumption will need to decrease by 26% by 2030.

“Talking about emissions from venting and flaring misses the most important point: that oil and gas production must decline rapidly,” she said. “There should already be no new investments in oil and gas production from today. The United States, as the world’s largest producer of oil and gas, has a clear responsibility to lead the way.

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