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US targets oil, natural gas industry with new methane emission rule

Robert Besser
5 Dec 2023

WASHINGTON D.C.: This week, the Biden administration adopted a new rule aimed at reducing methane emissions, which targets the role of the U.S. oil and natural gas industry in global warming.

The rule will reduce methane and other harmful air pollutants generated by the oil and gas industry, promote the use of cutting-edge methane detection technologies, and deliver significant public health benefits in terms of reduced hospital visits, lost school days, and lower deaths, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan and White House climate adviser Ali Zaidi announced the rule at the United Nations climate conference, COP28, in the UAE.

The new rule on methane emissions is part of the Biden administration's wider environmental efforts worth some US$1 trillion over 10 years, which include financial incentives for buying electric vehicles and upgrading infrastructure.

Oil and gas operations are the largest industrial source of methane, the main component in natural gas that is responsible for some one-third of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

The methane rule finalizes a proposal Biden made at a UN climate conference in Scotland in 2021 and expanded a year later at a climate conference in Egypt.

The proposal aims to cut emissions from existing oil and gas wells around the U.S. and not just from new wells under previous EPA regulations, as well as regulate smaller wells that will be required to find and plug methane leaks. Such wells are subject to an initial inspection but are rarely checked again for leaks.

The American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry's main lobbying group, said it was reviewing the new rule to assess if it is in line with the dual goal of reducing emissions while meeting rising energy demand.

"Smart federal regulation can help build on industry's progress to date," said Dustin Meyer, an API vice president.

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