On Saturday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced extensive regulations aimed at reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. This is a significant step for President Joe Biden’s plan to combat the pollution that is contributing to the rise in global temperatures.
The implementation of the rule at 3 a.m. was strategically planned to align with the current U.N. climate discussions in Dubai, where the U.S. has been actively involved in leading the international efforts to decrease emissions of the potent greenhouse gas. However, its ultimate evaluation will take place in the legal realm within the country, as conservative members of the Supreme Court have rejected regulations that they deemed as exceeding the authority of the White House.
In a statement, EPA Administrator Michael Regan referred to the regulation as a “robust measure” that effectively reduces methane emissions.
He stated that these technology standards were created to promote American innovation and consider the industry’s role in advancing methane technology.
On Saturday, the U.S. will hold a separate summit on methane in Dubai, together with China and the United Arab Emirates. China, the largest contributor to methane emissions globally, has committed to including measures to reduce methane in its upcoming 10-year climate plan, set to be released in 2025, as part of an agreement with the U.S. last month.
If it successfully passes through the anticipated legal obstacles, the regulation would become part of the groundbreaking environmental law that was passed by Biden and Democratic members of Congress in the previous year. This law has allocated billions of dollars towards reducing emissions of greenhouse gases from oil and gas drilling, processing facilities, and pipelines. The goal is to combat the rising temperatures that have caused 2023 to be recorded as the hottest year on record.
Countries are not on pace to achieve the objectives outlined in the 2015 Paris climate accord, which aimed to restrict the increase in global temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. (It also established a more ambitious goal of 1.5 degrees.) Therefore, at the COP28 discussions in the United Arab Emirates, they have focused on reducing methane emissions as one of the quickest and most effective solutions to addressing the issue.
Methane, found in natural gas, is the second most influential factor in causing climate change, following carbon dioxide. It has a much greater ability to trap heat compared to CO2, with a potency 86 times stronger over a 20-year period. Experts in climate science suggest that taking swift action to reduce methane emissions could help mitigate some of the severe consequences of climate change in the near future.
Until now, attempts to regulate methane emissions have primarily focused on the oil and gas industry. However, advancements in technology and monitoring have made it more practical to decrease these emissions.
Carrie Jenks, executive director of Harvard University’s Environmental & Energy Law Program, stated that the developments have been implemented in state regulations in New Mexico and Colorado. They were also utilized to inform the federal regulations.
Discussing the EPA regulations in Dubai presents a chance to demonstrate leadership and set an example on a global platform, according to Jenks. The Biden administration is aiming to showcase their leadership by utilizing advanced technology and implementing measures to decrease methane emissions from the oil and natural gas sector.
According to Samantha Gross, the director of the energy security and climate initiative at the Brookings Institute, reducing methane emissions is a significant step in addressing global warming.
She stated that it is admirable to be a model for other countries that produce oil and gas, specifically in the United States.
However, this is contingent on adhering to the regulations, and it may encounter legal opposition, such as widespread challenges to the EPA’s jurisdiction from conservative states and possibly more specific objections raised by the business sector.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claims that it possesses strong legal support for controlling methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. However, the Supreme Court has challenged multiple significant environmental regulations proposed by Democratic administrations in recent years. These include a climate rule for power plants established during the Obama administration, as well as the EPA’s ability to regulate water bodies and wetlands. In January, the Supreme Court is scheduled to review cases that could grant lower court judges the power to invalidate additional regulations.
According to the EPA, the recent regulation released on Saturday is expected to reduce methane emissions by 36 million tons by the year 2035. This is equal to 810 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is approximately the same amount released by all coal-fired power plants in the US in 2020.
The regulation enhances current criteria for freshly introduced sources of pollution and, for the initial time, will mandate producers to enhance equipment and actively seek out leaks at hundreds of thousands of wells and other oil and gas infrastructure.
The Global Methane Pledge aims to decrease methane emissions by at least 30% from 2020 levels by the year 2030. Over 150 nations, accounting for approximately half of all human-caused methane emissions, have committed to this pledge. Notable exceptions include China, India, and Russia.
Despite making promises to reduce methane emissions, actually controlling them has been difficult. Many countries, including the United States, have seen an increase in methane emissions, according to environmental research company Kayrros.
However, the primary obstacle will be removing the regulation from the EPA. This will only be the initial hurdle as Republicans and members of the oil sector have declared their intention to legally contest it.
Major oil corporations such as Exxon Mobil and Shell have openly supported the EPA’s oversight of methane emissions. These companies have promoted their efforts to decrease their emissions and are striving to improve their reputation for reducing carbon.
The American Petroleum Institute, which represents the largest oil and gas companies in the US, has chosen not to comment at this time while they review the final rule. Representatives from the industry have expressed their primary concerns about the timeline for the rule to take effect, potential penalties for emissions that are discovered and promptly addressed, and the level of flexibility they will have in detecting and addressing accidental pollution.
Republican Senator stated that smaller and medium-sized companies in the industry, who do not have the same financial resources as larger companies, see the EPA’s rule as costly and unnecessary because they are already following state-based regulations.Kevin Cramer
The individual, hailing from North Dakota, resides in the third-highest oil producing state in the nation.
During an interview, Cramer stated that large multinational companies have the advantage of having significant financial resources to meet the regulation requirements. He also cautioned that conservative states may contest the rule.
However, according to Mark Brownstein, senior vice president for energy transition at the Environmental Defense Fund, an environmental organization collaborating with the oil industry to decrease emissions, the EPA regulation is anticipated to remain in place this time.
Funding is anticipated to facilitate the implementation of regulatory measures. In June, the Biden administration declared its intention to allocate over $1 billion from the Democrats’ climate legislation towards the advancement and dissemination of technologies for identifying and fixing methane leaks.
Brownstein stated that the plan has been thoroughly reviewed by all parties involved and includes a significant dedication to reducing emissions. There is also a strong commitment to comprehensive reporting and shifting towards using precise measurements instead of estimates. It is expected that there is a solid agreement between the U.S. oil and gas industry and environmental groups on the necessary actions to be taken.