Methane Action Asks EPA to Include Methane Removal in Proposed Methane Rule

News Release

For immediate release

Contacts:  

Stephen Kent, skent@kentcom.com, +1 914 589 5988

Daphne Wysham, daphne@methaneaction.org, +1 503-310-7042

John Fitzgerald, greenknights.law@gmail.com, +1 202-288-0231

As U.S. and Other Governments Take Steps to Cut  Methane Emissions, Methane Action Asks EPA to Include Methane Removal in Proposed Methane Rule

[Calabasas, CA – February 2, 2022] – Methane Action, a nonprofit group which advocates dramatically reducing current record-high atmospheric concentrations of methane, has filed comments with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its proposed new methane rule.  

The comments urge EPA to expedite development of technologies to remove methane, both near emissions sources and from the ambient atmosphere, while at the same time limiting emissions from oil and gas production and transmission as strictly as possible, as part of the proposed rule.  They also ask EPA, whether in its final rule in the current rulemaking cycle or the next one it plans for 2022, to require emitters to use or pay for methane removal as those methods become available, citing current research on promising methane removal technologies which scientists are developing.

Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas, more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over 20 years. Methane levels are currently at an 800,000-year high and rising fast, with annual increases doubling in recent years.  Recent Copernicus satellite data showed that despite the pandemic’s economic impact, methane concentrations continued to rise in 2021 and reached 1900 parts per billion (ppb).  

The proposed EPA rule is focused primarily on cutting methane emissions from the extraction and transmission of new oil and gas operations and a mandate to states to address existing wells and facilities, with a supplemental proposal envisioned for reducing methane emissions from other sources also in 2022.  It was announced November 2, 2021 during the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. On the same day, the U.S. and the European Union also launched a Global Methane Pledge to reduce anthropogenic methane emissions 30% below 2020 levels by 2030. 

At last week’s ministerial meeting of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, participants reiterated the 30% reduction goal and discussed developing methane action plans before COP27. This week the Biden administration announced further actions to cut methane emissions from orphaned oil and gas wells and agricultural sources, as well as a new Measurement & Monitoring Interagency Working Group to provide data on carbon dioxide and methane emissions and removals. 

“These steps forward are critically important and gratifying to see,” said Methane Action CEO Daphne Wysham. “At the same time, scientists are increasingly recognizing that, in order to bring methane concentrations down to safe levels, we need to do two very difficult things simultaneously: we must reduce manmade methane emissions as soon as possible, as the U.S. and other nations are proposing to do under the Global Methane Pledge, and, secondly, we must remove as much of the legacy methane which is already in the atmosphere as quickly as possible. We’re advocating moving forward aggressively on both fronts now.”

“EPA has taken the first step in creating what could be a model for the world if it is done right,” said John Fitzgerald, Methane Action’s Lead Attorney. “That means using the best available science and the best available legal tools to lower methane concentrations.  And that is what we have presented in our comments.” 

Methane removal technologies are currently being developed by scientists around the world. Methane Action’s comments to EPA cite recent peer-reviewed articles by leading scientists discussing various promising methane removal methods and laying out an agenda for further methane removal research, including the following:

“Because mitigating most anthropogenic emissions of methane is uncertain this century, and sudden methane releases from the Arctic or elsewhere cannot be excluded, technologies for methane removal or oxidation may be required,” wrote Rob Jackson et al. in the scientific journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. “Carbon dioxide removal has an increasingly well-established research agenda and technological foundation. No similar framework exists for methane removal. We believe that a research agenda for negative methane emissions—‘removal’ or atmospheric methane oxidation—is needed.”

“At the recent COP26 in Glasgow, 105 countries signed ‘the methane pledge’ committing to a 30% reduction in emissions from oil and gas by 2030,” wrote Tingzhen Ming, Renaud de Richter, et al. in the scientific journal Advances in Applied Energy. “Removal methods are complementary to such reduction, as they can deal with other sources of anthropogenic emissions as well as legacy emissions already accumulated in the troposphere. They can also provide future insurance in case biogenic emissions start rising significantly. These methods include enhancement of natural hydroxyl and chlorine sinks, photocatalysis in solar updraft towers, zeolite catalyst in direct air capture devices, and methanotrophic bacteria.”

In its comments on the proposed methane rule, Methane Action asks EPA to “establish a process for annually revising the list of ‘best systems of emission reduction’ for each source so as to expedite the use of rapidly developing methods of removing methane from both near the source, and further from sources.”  The proposed rule would require state action on methane, and Methane Action asked the EPA, as it finalizes it, to urge state and federal governments to use their authorities to impose fees and take other steps to regulate methane.  

Methane Action‘s comments further recommended that EPA:

  • evaluate and require reduction of methane’s harmful effects under the Toxic Substances Control Act which can require emitters to pay for the removal of substances posing serious hazards or causing significant harm to public health;
  • invoke provisions of the Clean Air Act and related laws to expedite U.S. cooperation with other countries on methane emissions reduction;
  • propose a framework for phasing out commercial methane while assuring access for those with no ready alternative; and
  • update the metrics it uses to calculate the impacts methane emissions and methane removal by taking account of new research findings that correct previous underestimations.

Methane Action’s full comments are posted here.

NOTE TO EDITORS AND PRODUCERS:  Sources quoted in this release and other expert sources are available for comment and interviews on request.  To arrange an interview, or for more information, please contact Stephen Kent, skent@kentcom.com, +1 914 589 5988

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