Biden Administration Finalizes Rules Limiting Methane Pollution from Oil, Gas Operations

Statement by Julie McNamara, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Dec 2, 2023

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Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized standards to limit methane emissions and other harmful air pollutants from new and existing oil and gas operations. Methane is a potent global warming pollutant and oil and gas operations are the nation’s largest source of industrial methane emissions. Strong methane standards will drive critical near-term progress in meeting U.S. climate targets, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), and the rule’s broader pollution reduction requirements will result in vital public health gains. These rules are also being released in the context of COP28, the annual U.N. climate talks underway in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where commitments to limit methane, including as part of the Global Methane Pledge, will be a part of the two-week negotiations.

Below is a statement by Julie McNamara, the deputy policy director for the Climate and Energy Program at UCS.

“The finalization of these methane standards addresses a glaring regulatory gap. For far too long, oil and gas companies have been allowed to spew methane and serious health-harming pollutants without any limits—all while shoving the towering costs of that pollution onto people and the environment. These rules are an important step in curbing that harmful practice.

“There’s absolutely no excuse for the outsized pollution coming from oil and gas operations. As standards from proactive states have made clear, cost-effective process changes and pollution control technologies exist and can immediately enable meaningful pollution reductions. Moreover, these standards will result in significant public health relief for communities surrounding oil and gas operations—disproportionately communities of color—which continue to pay the heaviest price.

“Cleaning up methane pollution from fossil fuel operations is a threshold requirement for meeting U.S. climate targets, and these standards, alongside other critical pending administration actions to limit methane pollution from fossil fuel operations, will be an important contribution to meeting the goals of the Global Methane Pledge. But make no mistake: These rules don’t mean that fossil fuels are now “clean.” No matter how tightly the United States regulates pollution from upstream oil and gas activities, there will still be relentless harms from ongoing fossil fuel production and use—and fossil fuel producers will still be responsible for all the damages they cause. For the health and well-being of people across the country, and the world, this must only be an intermediate step on the path to a sharp wind-down of fossil fuels.”