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November 2, 2021updated 05 Nov 2021 10:30am

Biden administration announces methane crackdown

The Biden administration has unveiled an ambitious methane-cutting bill as part of wider effort to curb emissions.

By Scarlett Evans

The Biden administration has unveiled its latest pollution-cutting reform, with the latest proposal looking at monitoring and curbing methane pollution from the nation’s oil and gas sector.

The announcement comes in the midst of COP26 in Glasgow, where nations are furthering their commitments to curbing rising global temperatures and where methane will be a central topic of discussion. The latest proposal may well set the Biden government in good stead to come out as a strong leader in its environmental agenda.

The latest measure – which comes from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – proposes more stringent regulations on methane emissions than ever before, with the new regulations requiring not only new but also existing operators to monitor and fix any methane leaks. According to EPA estimates, around 41 million tonnes of methane could be cut between 2023-2035 under the new measure.

While a less stringent iteration of this law was initially instated during Obama’s presidency, they were rescinded by the Trump administration. Now, Biden says he wants to bring this ruling back in its full force, extending it to impact roughly one million oil and gas rigs currently in operation across the US.

The nation is also leading a coalition working to cut global methane levels by at least 30% by 2030. In a speech at COP26 on Monday, Biden encouraged “every nation” to join, deeming it the “single most effective strategy we have to slow global warming in the near term” .

Despite these efforts, some are calling for further action, and the US is coming under pressure to join a new UN and EU-mandated methane observatory that was unveiled on Sunday. This scheme is being established to monitor and track emissions of the gas from participating nations, offering a comprehensive data resource that operators hope will help guide emission reduction strategies.

While CO2 has longer-lasting impacts than methane, the latter has 80 times more warming power and is seen as a crucial emission to be addressed in the global climate fight. The oil and gas industry represents one of the largest sources of this gas; it is sometimes found to leak from industry infrastructure, and sometimes is intentionally vented. As one of the largest sources of this gas, efforts are beginning to turn more fervently towards these industries.

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