Biden unveils new rules to curb methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas operations

Biden unveils new rules to curb methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas operations

The move comes as the U.S. presses other nations to cut their emissions at the U.N. climate summit in Scotland

More than 100 countries have signed the Global Methane Pledge, which requires a 30 percent cut in methane emissions by 2030, one of the Biden administration’s priorities for the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland. The pledge’s signatories now represent nearly half of human-caused methane emissions.

On Tuesday, the Biden administration also unveiled a sweeping set of domestic policies to cut emissions of methane from oil and gas operations across the United States. The proposals, announced at the U.N. climate summit, represent one of the president’s most consequential efforts to combat climate change.

Proposed rules from the Environmental Protection Agency would establish standards for old wells, impose more frequent and stringent leak monitoring, and require the capture of natural gas that is found alongside oil and is often released into the atmosphere. They mark the first time the federal government has moved to comprehensively tackle the seepage of methane from U.S. oil and gas infrastructure.

President Biden told delegates in Glasgow that cutting methane emissions is essential to keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above levels in the late 1800s before widespread industrialization.

He said he hoped the world would surpass the pledges made. “Together we’re committed to collectively reduce our methane by 30 percent by 2030,” Biden said. “And I think we could probably go beyond that.”

Methane, the main component of natural gas, is the world’s second-largest contributor to climate change among greenhouse gases. Although it dissipates more quickly than carbon dioxide, it is 80 times as powerful during the first 20 years after it is released into the atmosphere.

Tackling methane is high on the agenda at the U.N. negotiations. The United States and the European Union have been pressing countries to sign the Global Methane Pledge to cut emissions. E.U. officials estimate that rapid reductions in methane could trim 0.3 degrees Celsius from overall global temperature rise by 2050.

By Dino Grandoni, Steven Mufson, The Washington Post