The Obama administration on Friday announced a new initiative to cut methane emissions, as part of its efforts to go around Congress to combat climate change.
Central to the administration's methane emissions reduction strategy are new regulations on the oil and gas industry, believed to be a significant emitter of methane, which is the primary ingredient in natural gas. The Environmental Protection Agency will study the matter this year to identify key sources of methane emissions, and later in the year will announce specific strategies for reducing those emissions, the White House said in a statement. The Bureau of Land Management later this year will also announce new standards to reduce methane emissions on BLM land.
Methane gas escapes from leaky pipes and wellheads, though exactly how much is not known. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide, though it doesn’t last as long in the atmosphere. Methane accounts for nearly nine percent of all greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activity in the U.S.
"Reducing methane emissions is a powerful way to take action on climate change; and putting methane to use can support local economies with a source of clean energy that generates revenue, spurs investment and jobs, improves safety, and leads to cleaner air," the White House said. "When fully implemented, the policies in the methane strategy will improve public health and safety while recovering otherwise wasted energy to power our communities, farms, factories, and power plants."
The plan also includes new regulations on landfills, coal mines—which can release fugitive methane in mines—and the dairy industry. The new emission regulations are a part of the administration’s Climate Action Plan announced last June.