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June 21, 2024

Biden Unveils Sweeping New Rule to Slash Methane Emissions

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Dec 1, 2023

The Biden administration on Saturday unveiled a new policy aimed at aggressively cutting emissions of methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas, across the oil and gas industry. The move, announced at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, will mandate companies reduce releases of methane from both new and existing operations over the next decade.

New EPA Rule Mandates Broad Cuts in the Coming Years

The centerpiece of the administration’s push is a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule requiring oil and gas drillers cut methane from all U.S. operations by 87 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. This amounts to about a 74 percent reduction from current emission rates based on the latest industry data. The oil industry currently accounts for about a third of the country’s methane releases.

The EPA estimates the mandate will eliminate 3.7 million tons per year of methane and 100,000 tons of volatile organic compounds, which contribute to smog. By 2035, it expects the rule will yield over $48 billion in public health and climate benefits compared to costs of about $15 billion for companies over that time period.

The rule sets distinct reduction targets for new and existing operations in order to achieve broad cuts across the sprawling U.S. oil and gas sector.

Type of Operation 2023 (vs. 2005) 2025 2030
New sources At least 86% At least 88% At least 91%
Existing sources At least 75% At least 80% At least 87%

"Without cutting super pollutants – and specifically methane – we can not meet our nation’s climate goals or keep our commitment to holding global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius," said EPA Administrator Michael Regan at the unveiling event in Dubai.

The rule will take effect 60 days after publication in the federal register, at which point detailed monitoring and repair work will need to get underway at wells and infrastructure across the country. It builds and expands on a draft rule first proposed over a year ago.

Oil Industry Pledges Further Reductions at COP28

In tandem with the new U.S. policy, the world’s largest oil companies used the global forum of the COP28 summit on Saturday to jointly announce pledges aimed at accelerating methane cuts worldwide. Companies joining the declaration included Saudi Aramco, ExxonMobil, BP and Shell, representing about 30 percent of global oil and gas output.

Under the "Aiming for Zero Methane Emissions Initiative," the industry giants said they will:

  • Measure their own facilities’ emissions with advanced technologies like satellites, drones, planes and on-the-ground sensors
  • Prioritize remediation efforts on super-emitting sites responsible for the vast bulk of releases
  • Increase transparency through public reporting of leaks detected and repaired

The companies also committed to phase out "routine flaring" and improve reliability and efficiency to minimize accidental leaks – two major sources of methane pollution.

However, conspicuously missing from the oil majors’ pledges were any firm numerical targets or timelines like those included in the EPA’s new mandates for the U.S. industry. Environmental groups at the summit blasted the declarations as "greenwashing" meant to distract from their role in driving climate change worldwide.

"The main purpose of these climate meetings is for polluters to distract, delay, and derail urgent climate action," said Jean Su with the Center for Biological Diversity. "These nonbinding pledges give them PR cover as they continue business as usual."

New Rule Caps Long Process, With More Potential Action Ahead

Saturday’s policy announcement caps a lengthy administrative process that began even before Biden took office in early 2021. That year also saw pledges to slash methane pollution worldwide at both the G20 leaders’ summit in Rome and the COP26 climate negotiations in Glasgow.

The new oil and gas emissions rule is also part of a broader regulatory agenda focused on methane. Last year the bipartisan infrastructure law provided $1.5 billion for legacy well cleanup on federal lands, followed by an executive order this January pushing multiple agencies to propose new standards.

The EPA is aiming to build on its new mandate with additional regulations in the coming years:

  • By September 2024, expected new curbs on emissions from other sectors like landfills and livestock
  • By December 2024, a supplemental rule further restricting releases from existing oil and gas sites
  • By 2025, tighter standards on methane content in exported liquified natural gas

Meanwhile, Biden aims to pursue new laws cementing methane cuts through legislation. "We’re going to be asking the Congress for additional statutory authorities to be able to regulate methane emissions, oil and gas emissions," said U.S. climate envoy John Kerry on Saturday. “We have to get it codified.”

So while this weekend’s announcements promise significant near-term progress reining in methane from oil operations, they remain only an initial salvo in broader efforts that will continue in the years ahead across multiple industries and countries. How aggressively the world follows through in translating talk into action at gatherings like COP28 will determine whether the heightened focus on methane yields truly meaningful emissions reductions.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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