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The EPA and Biden Administration’s Methane Regulation Efforts
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Nirati Iyer

Feb 08, 2024

In accordance with the recommended methane emission limits set by the EPA for oil and gas companies, the Biden Administration has taken efforts to curb climate impact further by proposing hefty fines on companies that do not stick to the limits.

In December 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule targeting methane leaks from oil and natural gas operations. This regulation imposes emission limits and establishes standards to address leaks, intentional flaring and other sources contributing to methane release, depending on the pollution source.

 
In partnership with this limit, the Biden Administration recently proposed a fee of $900 per ton of methane emissions that go above the limits set by the EPA, escalating to $1,200 in 2025 and plateauing at $1,500 in 2026. These fees form part of a broader strategy to incentivize emission reductions and fund initiatives to enhance monitoring and leak detection.

 
Methane, often referred to as a climate "super pollutant," is accountable for about one-third of the current human-induced global warming, carrying more environmental impact than carbon dioxide. Thus, reductions in methane emissions are imperative for immediate climate action, in addition to efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. 

 
The EPA anticipates that between 2024 and 2038, the rule will result in a significant reduction in methane emissions, equivalent to removing 1.5 billion tons of CO2.

 
While environmental advocates applaud these fees as a critical step, industry groups resist them. The American Petroleum Institute supports "smart" methane regulations but describes this regulation as an "incoherent, confusing regulatory regime." Critics argue that it could escalate energy costs for consumers and hinder innovation. 

 
Additionally, the reliance on self-reporting by energy producers is controversial - environmental groups are expressing concerns about potential loopholes and the accuracy of reported data. While companies now bear financial responsibility for emitting methane, they are also responsible for the data reported, potentially leading to dishonest data.

 
The Biden administration's multi-faceted approach to methane emissions signals a proactive stance on environmental issues. However, the effectiveness of these policies will depend on industry cooperation, transparent reporting and addressing emerging challenges. 

 
Balancing support for domestic energy production and mitigating climate impact remains a delicate task, as evidenced by ongoing debates surrounding projects like the Willow Project in Alaska. 

 
As the policies undergo public scrutiny and potential revisions, their ultimate impact on the success of U.S. environmental efforts remains to be seen.

 

Sources:

“Biden-Harris Administration Announces Proposed Rule to Reduce Wasteful Methane Emissions from the Oil and Gas Sector to Drive Innovation and Protect Communities.” US EPA, 12 Jan. 2024, https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/biden-harris-administration-announces-proposed-rule-reduce-wasteful-methane-emissions


“EPA Finalizes Rule to Eliminate Methane Leaks from Oil and Gas Sector.” Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, https://climate.law.columbia.edu/content/epa-finalizes-rule-eliminate-methane-leaks-oil-and-gas-sector


Dally, Matthew. “EPA proposes ‘methane fee’ for waste generated by oil and natural gas companies.” PBS, 12 Jan. 2024,

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/epa-proposes-methane-fee-for-waste-generated-by-oil-and-natural-gas-companies


Cohen, Steve. “President Biden’s Environmental Record.” State of the Planet, 5 June 2023, https://news.climate.columbia.edu/2023/06/05/president-bidens-environmental-record/

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