The Biden administration has recently unveiled new regulations that target methane emissions from oil and gas industry operations.
Methane is the main ingredient in natural gas. But it doesn’t stay in the atmosphere nearly as long as carbon dioxide, the most common human-caused greenhouse gas. That’s why the Environmental Protection Agency says reducing methane emissions now “would have a rapid and significant effect” on global warming, reports NPR.
Environmental activists believe, however, that these new rules are not strong enough to curb such a big contributor to the current global climate crisis.
“In a Biden-declared climate ‘code red,’ his administration needs to use the full power of the Clean Air Act to cut methane pollution from oil and gas production without industry exemptions. Climate justice during a climate emergency means using every tool in the toolbox including not just a stronger rule, but also declaring a National Emergency on climate change,” says Lauren Pagel, Earthworks’ policy director.
“The best regulation against methane emissions is to ban fracking and prohibit the use of methane in heating of newly constructed buildings. In addition, the federal government should be working to retrofit existing buildings to eliminate the use of methane. Further, President Biden should use his executive authority to stop the buildout of new gas infrastructure, ban the export of [liquefied natural gas], and stop fracking, and the extraction of fossil fuel on federal lands as he promised during the campaign,” says Mitch Jones, policy director at Food & Water Watch.
According to Common Dreams, the EPA said that its new proposal would—among other changes—establish a “comprehensive monitoring program” for new and existing oil and gas well sites, impose “standards to eliminate venting of associated gas,” and “require capture and sale of gas where a sales line is available.” The agency estimated the new regulations could cut U.S. methane emissions by 41 million tons from 2023 to 2035.
With the U.S. being the second-largest emitter of methane, there needs to be a drastic change in regulation.
“For too long, we’ve known the damaging impacts of this potent heat-trapping pollutant, known that oil and gas operations continue to be a major source of it, and known that solutions to drive rapid reductions across the sector already exist—yet still, oil and gas operations continue to release untenably high and entirely preventable methane emissions. Swiftly reducing methane emissions will result in significant and much-needed near-term climate progress,” says Julie McNamara, deputy policy director of the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The oil and gas industry is divided over the methane plan, reports The New York Times. Small oil and gas producers are worried that the new rules will create onerous burdens that will put them out of business.