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Biden Administration Implements Final Rule to Curtail Methane Emissions in U.S. Oil and Gas Industry

by Anna

The Biden administration has taken a significant step toward addressing climate change by issuing a final rule aimed at reducing methane emissions, specifically targeting the U.S. oil and natural gas industry. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on Saturday that the rule is designed to sharply reduce methane and other harmful air pollutants generated by the industry, contributing to global warming.

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The rule, unveiled at the U.N. climate conference in the United Arab Emirates, is expected to yield substantial public health benefits by reducing hospital visits, minimizing lost school days, and preventing deaths associated with air pollution from oil and gas operations. Such pollution has been linked to various health issues, including cancer, damage to the nervous and respiratory systems, and birth defects.

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EPA Administrator Michael Regan and White House climate adviser Ali Zaidi revealed the final rule, emphasizing its focus on cutting-edge methane detection technologies and its potential to enhance public health. The rule addresses the largest industrial source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas responsible for about one-third of global warming emissions.

The top 100 arms-producing and military services companies globally experienced a 3.5% drop in arms revenue from 2021 to 2022, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The decline in revenue was attributed to challenges faced by Western arms companies in scaling up production amid increased demand. Labor shortages, rising costs, and supply chain disruptions were exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In the U.S., the revenues of 42 listed companies, comprising 51% of total arms sales, fell by 7.9% to $302 billion in 2022, with 32 reporting a decline due to ongoing supply chain issues and labor shortages linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the U.N. climate conference, Vice President Kamala Harris emphasized the urgency of confronting climate change and highlighted the Biden administration’s broader efforts, including the newly announced methane rule. The rule targets emissions from existing oil and gas wells nationwide, with a phased-in requirement for energy companies to eliminate routine flaring by 2030. The EPA expects the rule to contribute to a global goal of reducing methane emissions by 30% by 2030 from 2020 levels. The rule will be coordinated with a methane fee approved in the 2022 climate law, marking the first time the U.S. government directly imposes a fee on greenhouse gas emissions.

While the American Petroleum Institute (API) stated it is reviewing the rule, environmental groups, including the American Lung Association and the Environmental Defense Fund, praised the regulation for its potential to significantly reduce hazardous air pollutants and climate-warming methane pollution from the oil and gas industry. The API expressed interest in ensuring the rule meets the dual goal of emissions reduction and meeting rising energy demand, acknowledging that smart federal regulation can build on industry progress.

The new rule represents a pivotal move by the Biden administration in advancing its climate legacy and addressing environmental concerns associated with the oil and gas industry. As nations worldwide strive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S. is taking a proactive stance on a key contributor to climate change—methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.

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