GLASGOW – The Biden administration planned to announce on Tuesday that it will greatly regulate methane, a potent greenhouse gas that spits out oil and natural gas operations and can heat the atmosphere 80 times as fast as carbon dioxide in the short term.
For the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency intends to limit the methane coming from about one million existing oil and gas drilling platforms across the United States. The federal government had previous rules aimed at preventing methane leaks from oil and gas wells built since 2015, but they were repealed by the Trump administration. Mr. The bite is intended to restore and strengthen them, administration assistants said.
Mr. Biden is in Glasgow this week for a UN climate summit, where he is trying to persuade other countries to reduce emissions from fossil fuels that heat the planet to dangerous levels.
The methane announcement comes as Mr Biden faces intense pressure both internationally and domestically to show that the United States, the nation that has pumped the most greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, is serious about mitigating climate change.
Mr. Biden has set himself an aggressive goal of reducing emissions produced by the United States this decade by about 50 percent below 2005 levels, but legislation to help him achieve that goal has stalled in Congress. It leaves the administration to rely on rules and other executive actions.
The White House on Tuesday is also set to release other new climate initiatives, including a plan to protect tropical forests and a push to accelerate clean technology, according to senior administration officials who briefed reporters on Monday.
However, the focal point will be the proposed regulation on methane. On Monday, Mr Biden said in a speech to world leaders in Glasgow that 70 countries had joined a coalition led by the United States and the European Union to reduce global methane levels by at least 30 percent by 2030.
“I urge any nation to sign,” he said. Biden called it “the most effective strategy we have for curbing global warming in the short term.”
Methane is the second largest greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, and it is responsible for more than a quarter of the warming that the planet is currently experiencing. It disappears from the atmosphere faster than carbon dioxide, but is more powerful at heating the atmosphere in the short term.
An odorless, colorless, flammable gas, methane, is produced by landfills, agriculture, livestock and oil and gas wells. It is sometimes deliberately burned or vented into the atmosphere during gas production.
As methane concentrations in the atmosphere have risen, environmentalists have become more and more concerned about its role in climate change.
According to the EPA, once completed, the regulation will reduce 41 million tonnes of methane emissions from 2023 to 2035, equivalent to 920 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. That is more than the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from all U.S. passenger cars and commercial aircraft in 2019, the agency said.
“With this historic action, the EPA is addressing existing sources from the oil and natural gas industry across the country, in addition to updating the rules for new sources to ensure robust and lasting reductions in pollution across the country,” the agency’s administrator, Michael S. Regan, said in a statement.
But Republicans in Congress said Mr Biden’s promises in Glasgow would hurt Americans back home. “The president wants to kill abundant and affordable U.S. energy sources such as oil, natural gas and coal, on which Americans depend,” Senator John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming, said in a statement. He called the White House’s plans a “recipe for disaster” that would lead to a lack of affordable energy.
The oil and gas industry is divided over the methane plan.
Karen Harbert, president of the American Gas Association, which represents some of the nation’s largest producers, said her group supported new federal rules, though she noted she had not seen the details.
Ms. Harbert noted that methane emissions from natural gas had fallen 73 percent since 1990. But, she said, “we recognize that we need to button up and reach the final percentage point.” She called regulation “the best possible approach” to creating standard rules across the industry.
However, small oil and gas producers are concerned that the new rules will create burdensome burdens that will put them out of business.
The proposed rules may take time to implement, are likely to face legal challenges and may be overturned by a future administration, observers say.
“When a president tries to use one-sided executive powers, there is immediately a set of obstacles,” said Barry Rabe, a professor of environmental policy at the University of Michigan. “It’s not going to be an easy transition.”
In addition to reducing greenhouse gases, regulating methane will protect public health, EPA officials said.
When methane is released into the atmosphere, it is often accompanied by dangerous chemicals such as benzene and hydrogen sulfide. Exposure to these pollutants has been linked to serious health problems, including asthma and cancer.
Sue Franklin knows the effects on her own. She and her husband, Jim, previously lived in the town of Verhalen in western Texas, where oil and gas drilling began around 2014.
Gases leaked from two new wells and gave the couple headaches, nosebleeds and asthma attacks.
The Franklin family eventually moved about 40 miles away, but Ms. Franklin, 70, said she feared she would have respiratory problems for the rest of her life.
“It never gets better; the damage has been done, ”Franklin said as she and her husband traveled to Washington, DC to protest new fossil fuel projects. Ms. Franklin said she thought new rules for oil and gas wells would help, but only up to a point.
“We were the lucky ones,” she said. “We came out. Other people are still living with this. I want to see them actually shut down.”
The oil and gas industry is united against a separate effort in Congress to impose a fee on methane leaks from oil and gas wells as part of a broader budget proposal.
The methane tax is designed both to increase revenue and to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. Experts said the dual approach was needed to shut down methane emissions.
The fee will apply to the largest oil and gas companies, those that emit more than 25,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases each year. These companies would pay $ 900 per tonne of methane leaked from 2024, rising to $ 1,500 per tonne from 2026 to 2030.
Oil and gas producers are lobbying hard to remove the methane tax from the legislation pending on Capitol Hill.
Anne Bradbury, CEO of the American Exploration and Production Council, which represents oil and gas companies, said: “This new, poorly designed natural gas tax, in addition to the regulatory costs imposed by complying with forthcoming EPA methane regulations, would be additional costs and punitive taxes that would be detrimental to U.S. producers, increase U.S. energy costs and cause 90,000 jobs lost across the country. “
The methane rules have a cracked history in Washington.
President Barack Obama first proposed rules to reduce methane from new and modified gas wells in 2016 and ended them on his way out of office. Republicans tried but failed to kill them in 2017 using an obscure law known as the Congressional Review Act, which allows lawmakers to overturn rules within 60 legislative days after they are finalized.
The Home Office and the EPA repealed Mr Obama’s methane rules when President Donald J. Trump left office.
In April, Democrats tried their hand at implementing the Congressional Review Act and were successful, voting to kill Mr. Trump’s return.
According to the EPA, the proposed rule will create a monitoring program under which companies will be required to find and correct methane leaks, often called “volatile emissions”, at new and existing well sites and compressor stations.
Mark Brownstein, a senior vice president at the Environmental Defense Fund, said the technology to reduce methane emissions exists. Operators can install steam recovery systems in storage tanks, ensure that overpressure valves do not get stuck, and replace leaky pipes.
“This is not about rocket science,” Mr. Brownstein. “This is auto mechanics.”
Coral Davenport contributed with reporting.