Obama administration unveils plan to cut methane emissions

  • Marie Cusick

The White House unveiled a plan today to curb emissions of methane– a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. It’s released by livestock, landfills, and oil and gas production.
Methane accounts for about 9 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas pollution, but it is over 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat trapping gas.
From the New York Times:

Among the steps the administration announced on Friday to address methane pollution:

The Interior Department will propose updated standards to reduce venting and flaring of methane from oil and gas production on public lands.

In April, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management will begin to gather public comment on the development of a program for the capture and sale of methane produced by coal mines on lands leased by the federal government.

This summer, the E.P.A. will propose updated standards to reduce methane from new landfills and take public comment on whether to update standards for existing landfills.

In June, the Agriculture Department, the Energy Department and the E.P.A. will jointly release a “biogas roadmap” aimed at accelerating adoption of methane digesters, machines that reduce methane emissions from cattle, in order to cut dairy sector greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020.

According to the White House plan, natural gas systems are the second-leading cause of human-related methane emissions, after agriculture.

Scientists are still working to quantify methane emissions and their sources. A slew of papers has recently been published in academic journals. A Standford study published last month found federal estimates significantly undercount the amount of methane emitted in the country. Another paper from the University of Texas found methane emissions during the well completion phase (the process of getting a well ready for production) were much lower than projected, while gas leaks from valves and other equipment on well pads were higher.

The Environmental Defense Fund praised the White House plan.

“This strategy has the potential to deliver the federal regulatory oversight that is needed to complement state efforts and make sure that all of the oil and gas industry meets basic, commonsense standards to deploy readily available technologies.” said EDF President Fred Krupp.

America’s Natural Gas Alliance President Marty Durbin pointed out that President Obama supports the development of natural gas as a way to curb greenhouse gases.

“We believe technology is available that will enable all parts of the natural gas supply chain to make strides in reducing emissions,” Durbin said in a statement. “We stand ready to advance our ongoing dialogue with the administration and all stakeholders involved in this effort.”

 

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