As part of its ongoing climate-change agenda, the White House on Wednesday said it would set new standards to cut methane emissions that come from the nation’s oil and gas industry.
Methane is a key part of natural gas and is a “potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential more than 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in announcing its plans.
According to the EPA, nearly 30 percent of methane emissions in the U.S. in 2012 came from oil production as well as the production, processing, transmission and distribution of natural gas. The EPA said such emissions are down 16 percent since 1990 but that they are expected to increase by about 25 percent over the next decade.
The new goal was announced Wednesday morning. It will call on both regulatory and voluntary measures.
The goal is to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 percent to 45 percent from their level in 2012. The EPA wants the goal met by 2025.
But most of the action is still in the future – steps the EPA and other agencies plan to take later this year or in 2016.
Key among the announcement, the EPA said it will initiate a rule-making effort to set standards for methane emissions from new and modified oil and gas production sources, and natural gas processing and transmission sources. A proposed rule will come in 2015 and a final rule in 2016, the EPA said.
As an example of other steps the administration plans to take: It said it will “lead by example on public lands” by updating decades-old standards to reduce wasteful venting, flaring and leaks of natural gas; those standards will cover new and existing oil and gas wells on public lands and will be proposed this spring.
The U.S. is the largest natural gas producer in the world, and the administration touts it as a way to power and heat American homes and businesses through the use of domestic sources. Even so, methane is a significant contributor to climate change, and President Barack Obama has made tacking that issue a priority of his remaining time in office.
Last year, the president announced a major initiative to cut carbon pollution at the nation’s power plants, a proposal that is still in the government rule-making process and that has met strong resistance from industrial groups and Republican lawmakers.