U.S. Moves to Rein in Methane, at Home and Globally

Statement by Rachel Cleetus, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Nov 11, 2022

WASHINGTON (November 11, 2022)—Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued an updated proposal for reducing methane and other harmful pollutants emitted by oil and gas operations. Once finalized, this rule will help rein in an important contributor to climate change and improve public health, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). This proposal comes in the midst of COP27, the UN climate talks in Egypt, where the U.S. and several other nations made new announcements to enhance action under the Global Methane Pledge, aimed at cutting global methane emissions at least 30 percent below 2020 levels by 2030.

Below is a statement by Rachel Cleetus, policy director and lead economist for the Climate and Energy Program at UCS.

“Methane is a potent and dangerous contributor to climate change, and the latest data shows global methane emissions hit an all-time high last year. The EPA’s proposal, along with announcements today on new actions from the United States and other countries related to the Global Methane Pledge, are critical to addressing this growing challenge within this decisive decade for climate action.

“A growing body of science also shows that the problem of methane leakage from oil and gas operations in the United States is even worse than we thought. We urgently need better tracking of methane emissions and stronger rules to reduce these emissions, including addressing leakage throughout the production, supply, storage and transportation chain as well as from routine flaring.

“The EPA has taken an important step forward by issuing a robust standard for methane emissions from oil and gas operations, including a ‘super-emitter program’ aimed at the most egregious polluters. This standard includes important improvements from a previous proposal thanks to thousands of comments from scientists and environmental justice advocates. Ultimately, to meet global climate goals, we need to go well beyond this effort and actually sharply taper down fossil fuels.

“The methane emitted by oil and gas operations is heating our planet, and the toxic pollutants that accompany it endanger the health of the people who work at or live near oil and gas extraction sites. Most of those harmed are people of color and residents of low-income communities who are more likely to live near these sites. Reducing methane pollution will aid public health as it helps limit the worst impacts of unabated climate change.

“Companies that profit from oil and gas extraction have a responsibility to reduce the pollution they create—pollution that is causing real harm today and threatening the climate for years to come. This proposed rule is an important step to help reduce that harm. The administration must quickly finalize and strictly enforce the strongest possible limits on methane pollution, and contribute to global efforts to make deep cuts in these dangerous emissions. It’s a matter of science—and justice.”