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The United States has implemented a new regulation regarding the release of methane gas into the atmosphere.
Science & Health

The United States has implemented a new regulation regarding the release of methane gas into the atmosphere.

On Saturday, the Biden administration released a new regulation with the goal of decreasing methane emissions. This rule specifically focuses on the U.S. oil and natural gas industry, holding them accountable for their contribution to climate change. This is part of President Joe Biden’s efforts to make progress in addressing the climate crisis.

The EPA announced that the regulation will greatly decrease methane and other dangerous air pollutants produced by the oil and gas sector. It will also encourage the implementation of advanced methane detection methods and result in significant improvements in public health, such as fewer hospitalizations, missed school days, and fatalities. Pollution from oil and gas activities can lead to cancer, damage the nervous and respiratory systems, and contribute to birth defects.

The final rule was announced by EPA Administrator Michael Regan and White House climate adviser Ali Zaidi at the U.N. climate conference in the United Arab Emirates. In addition, the president of the climate summit revealed on Saturday that 50 oil companies, which make up almost half of global production, have committed to achieving near-zero methane emissions and discontinuing routine flaring in their operations by 2030.

The production of oil and gas is the leading cause of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that is even more potent than carbon dioxide in the short term. This accounts for approximately one-third of the emissions that contribute to global warming. Reducing methane emissions is crucial in slowing down the effects of climate change and is a key focus at the COP28 conference.

Smaller wells included

In 2021, during a UN climate conference in Scotland, Biden suggested a plan to regulate methane emissions. This plan was later expanded at a climate conference in Egypt in the following year. The finalized methane rule addresses emissions from current oil and gas wells across the country, rather than solely focusing on new wells like previous EPA regulations. Additionally, the regulation includes smaller wells that must now actively seek out and repair methane leaks. Currently, these wells are only inspected once and are not regularly checked for leaks.

Research has discovered that diminutive wells yield 6% of the country’s oil and gas, yet contribute up to 50% of the methane emissions from well locations.

The plan includes a gradual implementation of a mandate for energy companies to stop the regular burning of excess natural gas from newly drilled oil wells.

According to Regan, the implementation of the latest methane regulation will aid in achieving the target set by over 100 countries to reduce methane emissions by 30% from the levels in 2020 by the year 2030.

The upcoming regulation will align with a methane charge that was passed in the 2022 environmental legislation. Starting next year, this charge will apply to energy companies that surpass a specific threshold of methane emissions, with a maximum fee of $1,500 per metric ton. This initiative is significant as it is the first instance of the U.S. government directly implementing a fee or tax on emissions that contribute to greenhouse gases.

The legislation permits exceptions for businesses that adhere to the EPA’s regulations or have emissions levels below a specific limit. It also allocates $1.5 billion in grants and other expenses to assist companies and communities in enhancing monitoring, data gathering, and identifying and fixing leaks in natural gas.

Reaction positive

The American Lung Association’s president and CEO, Harold Wimmer, declared the new regulation as a success for the well-being of the public.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took into account the urgent recommendations of health professionals nationwide and completed a robust methane regulation that, once fully enforced, will greatly decrease dangerous air pollutants and methane emissions that contribute to climate change from the oil and gas sector,” he stated.

According to Wimmer, methane is released into the air throughout the entire process of extracting oil and gas. He also stated that individuals residing near these wells are particularly at risk of being exposed to these hazards. Therefore, this regulation plays a crucial role in promoting environmental justice efforts.

According to David Doniger, an expert on climate at the Natural Resources Defense Council, methane is a significant contributor to pollution. In an interview, he praised the Biden plan for effectively addressing climate pollution. Doniger expressed regret that these actions were not taken earlier, but is pleased with the current progress.

The oil sector has generally embraced the direct federal control of methane emissions, favoring a unified national guideline over a disorganized set of state regulations. However, energy corporations have requested that the EPA exclude hundreds of thousands of the country’s smallest wells from the upcoming methane regulations.