Biden unveils sweeping new U.S. methane emission rules at COP26 climate summit

Joe Biden
(Image credit: Evan Vucci/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

President Biden and his administration unveiled a series of policies Tuesday to limit methane gas leaks from oil and gas wells and pipelines. Biden is at the United Nations-sponsored COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow, Scotland, where methane emissions are a major agenda item. Methane, a key component of natural gas, isn't the largest greenhouse gas — it is No. 2 to carbon dioxide — and it dissipates more quickly than carbon dioxide, but it is 80 times more powerful in the first 20 years after it is released into the atmosphere.

The U.S. and European Union are encouraging other countries to join them in signing the Global Methane Pledge to cut emissions 30 percent by 2030. Brazil joined the growing list of signatories on Monday, but some of the world's biggest methane emitters, notably China and Russian, have not signed on.

A new Environmental Protection Agency rule to be finalized next month will require oil and gas wells — including older, more leak-prone wells — to monitor for methane leaks, capture natural gas typically released alongside oil drilling, and require emissions-free control valves at oil and gas sites. The EPA says the new rule will cover about 75 percent of all U.S. methane emissions, and the Biden administration will tackled more with future regulations.

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Separately, the Transportation Department's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is finalizing a rule that extends leak monitoring and other safety requirements to 400,000 miles of previously unregulated pipelines between gas wells and centralized sites. The Obama administration issued rules to curb methane and methane leaks from new oil and gas equipment and on federal lands, but the Trump administration rolled them back.

The American Petroleum Institute lobbying group has opposed previous efforts to regulate methane emissions, but it says it now supports one central "cost-effective rule" and has been working on the regulation with Biden officials since before the inauguration.

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