The Biden administration just announced a “historic action” on methane emissions
A new EPA rule wants to significantly cut pollution from the potent gas.
This week, world leaders are gathered in Glasgow for COP26, the United Nations’ annual conference on climate change. Given the U.S.’s less-than-stellar climate record, the nation is under scrutiny by both people at the conference and those watching from home. But on Tuesday, the Biden administration might have garnered some positivity after announcing that the U.S. will finally cut methane pollution through new regulations.
When it comes to methane emissions, the U.S. is among the worst. In 2018, a study even found that methane emissions were 60% higher than the Environmental Protection Agency thought. The main source of methane emissions in the U.S. is the gas and oil industry; in its press release, the EPA noted that the industry emits more methane than the total emissions from 164 other countries combined.
So, the EPA’s proposal to cut emissions, which is coming in the form of an update to the Clean Air Act, is long overdue. The EPA estimated that the new rule will reduce methane emissions by 41 million tons from 2023 to 2035. The EPA’s administrator Michael Regan referred to the proposal as a “historic action”, stating, “By building on existing technologies and encouraging innovative new solutions, we are committed to a durable final rule that is anchored in science and the law, that protects communities living near oil and natural gas facilities, and that advances our nation’s climate goals under the Paris Agreement.”
This proposal comes after the EPA’s somewhat tumultuous attempts at regulating methane before. During his term, former President Barack Obama implemented methane regulations, but former President Donald Trump did away with them when he took office. Although Congress restored those regulations in April under President Biden, NPR reported that they only applied to new and modified operations. By contrast, the EPA’s new proposal will target all facilities.
Of course, not everybody is happy about the EPA’s announcement — looking at you, Republicans. The New York Times reported that Sen. John Barraso of Wyoming called the plan a “recipe for disaster” and claimed that Biden “wants to kill abundant and affordable U.S. energy sources like oil, natural gas, and coal that Americans depend on.”
At the same time that Republicans are complaining, so are some small gas and oil companies. Per the Times, some are worried that the new regulations may put them out of business. However, this isn’t one of the situations where you really need to cry over small businesses: Earlier this year, an analysis of emissions found that small companies are actually becoming the U.S.’s biggest greenhouse gas polluters.
Sometimes, that’s because bigger companies sell off the most polluting aspects of their business to the little guys. As the Times previously reported, these small companies can escape some of the public scrutiny that big names like BP might face. But regardless of the how or why behind smaller companies becoming big polluters, they are now the ones that you need to be concerned with.