Biden Administration Moves to Limit Methane, a Potent Greenhouse Gas

November 9, 2021

GLASGOW — The Biden administration said on Nov. 2 that it would heavily regulate methane, a potent greenhouse gas that spews from oil and natural gas operations and can warm the atmosphere 80 times as fast as carbon dioxide in the short term, according to an article from The New York Times.

For the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency intends to limit the methane coming from roughly one million existing oil and gas rigs across the United States. The federal government previously had rules that aimed to prevent methane leaks from oil and gas wells built since 2015, but they were rescinded by the Trump administration. Mr. Biden intends to restore and strengthen them, aides said. Older oil and gas rigs tend to leak more methane than new systems.

The announcement came as more than 100 nations around the world joined together at a United Nations climate change summit here to promise to curb global emissions of methane 30 percent by 2030. If they succeed, that will be the equivalent of eliminating emissions from every car, truck, airplane and ship, said Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency.

“This is huge,” Mr. Birol said at an event where countries outlined their methane plans.

President Biden called the agreement a “game-changing commitment” and insisted the new efforts will help create jobs to manufacture technologies for methane detection while employing pipefitters and welders to cap abandoned wells and plug leaking pipelines.

“It’s going to boost our economies,” he said.

Mr. Biden is in Glasgow this week for a United Nations climate summit, where he is trying to persuade other countries to reduce emissions from fossil fuels that are heating the planet to dangerous levels.

The methane announcement comes as Mr. Biden faces intense pressure both internationally and at home to show that the United States, the nation that has pumped the most greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, is serious about mitigating climate change.

Mr. Biden has set an aggressive target of cutting the emissions produced by the United States this decade about 50 percent below 2005 levels, but legislation to help him meet that goal is stalled in Congress. That leaves the administration to rely on regulations and other executive action.

The White House on Tuesday also announced other new climate initiatives, including a plan to protect tropical forests and a push to speed up clean technology.

In addition to the rule proposed by the E.P.A., the U.S. Department of Transportation introduced a regulation to reduce methane leaks from natural gas pipelines, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it will work with farmers and ranchers on ways to reduce methane from livestock.

The centerpiece, however, is the proposed E.P.A. regulation on methane.

Methane is the second most abundant greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, and it’s responsible for more than a quarter of the warming the planet is currently experiencing. It dissipates from the atmosphere faster than carbon dioxide but is more powerful at heating the atmosphere in the short run.

An odorless, colorless, flammable gas, methane is produced by landfills, agriculture, livestock and oil and gas drilling. It is sometimes intentionally burned or vented into the atmosphere during gas production.

As concentrations of methane in the atmosphere have increased, environmentalists have grown increasingly concerned about its role in climate change.

According to the E.P.A., the regulation, once finalized, will reduce 41 million tons of methane emissions from 2023 to 2035, the equivalent of 920 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. That is more than the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from all U.S. passenger cars and commercial aircraft in 2019, the agency said.