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Biden climate plan aims to reduce methane emissions

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The Biden administration is announcing a broad strategy to cut methane emissions. This potent greenhouse jobs gas contributes significantly to global warming and has a more enormous short-term impact than carbon dioxide. 

President Joe Biden unveiled the idea on Tuesday as he wrapped up a two-day speech at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. During the meeting, Biden vowed to work with the European Union and other nations to cut global methane emissions by 30% by 2030. One of Biden's first executive orders lays out a long-awaited rule by the Environmental Protection Agency to tighten methane controls for the oil and gas sector jobs. For the first time, the proposed rule would focus on existing oil and gas wells across the country, rather than just new wells, as past regulations have done. 

According to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, the new regulation issued under the Clean Air Act would significantly reduce methane emissions and other pollutants. It will be stricter than an Obama-era threshold set in 2016. In a rare attempt by majority Democrats to utilize the legislative branch to undo a regulatory rollback under President Donald Trump, Congress reinstated the Obama norm last summer. 

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 “As global leaders convene at this pivotal moment in Glasgow for COP26, it is now abundantly clear that America is back and leading by example in confronting the climate crisis with bold ambition,” Regan said, referring to the climate summit. EPA's “historic action" will “ensure robust and lasting cuts in pollution across the country,'' Regan said.  

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According to him, the new rule will protect communities near oil and gas sites while also advancing the United States' climate goals under the 2015 Paris Agreement. The oil and natural gas industry is the country's greatest industrial emitter of methane. This very harmful pollutant accounts for roughly one-third of current warming caused by human activity. Other dangerous air pollutants generated by the oil and gas industry include volatile molecules that contribute to ground-level ozone or smog and air poisons like benzene emitted alongside methane. 

According to environmental groups, Methane reduction is the quickest and most cost-effective way to decrease global warming. Current regulations for methane emissions from US oil and gas wells only apply to sources built or modified after 2015, leaving roughly 90% of the country's nearly 900,000 well sites unregulated. 

The American Petroleum Institute, the oil and gas industry's leading lobbying group, has stated that it supports direct regulation of methane emissions from new and current sources but opposes proposals in Congress to levy penalties on methane leaks, which it calls punitive and wasteful. Even though natural gas output has increased due to the current fracking boom, the industry claims that methane leaks, the major component of natural gas, have been reduced. In recent years, technological improvements have made identifying and correcting natural gas leaks cheaper and easier. 

According to the administration's plan, the Transportation Department's new safety regulations will strengthen restrictions for methane leaks from the nation's 3 million miles of pipes. Meanwhile, the Interior Department is poised to take action against methane waste burnt at drilling sites on public lands. Furthermore, the Agriculture Department collaborates with farmers to develop "climate-smart" regulations to track and minimize greenhouse gas emissions while also increasing carbon storage. 

The plan focuses on cutting pollution from the largest sources of methane emissions and uses financial incentives, public disclosure and private partnerships to reduce leaks and waste, protect workers and communities and create union-friendly jobs, a senior administration official said at a briefing Monday. The official asked not to be named because the person was not authorized to speak before publicly announcing the actions. Biden has previously announced plans to step up efforts to plug leaks at old gas wells and clean up abandoned coal mines. A bipartisan infrastructure bill approved by the Senate includes billions to reclaim abandoned mine land and cap orphaned wells.

Source: The Tribune

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