In his big climate plan released last June, President Obama promised new rules to reduce methane leakage during the production and transport of natural gas. Since then, we’ve learned that the problem of methane leaks is much larger than the government had estimated.
Now the administration is poised to finally announce those regulations and help prevent the country’s natural gas industry from turning the world into a Dutch oven.
When burned, natural gas produces half as much carbon dioxide as coal. But methane, the main component of natural gas, is a much more potent greenhouse gas when released directly into the atmosphere, 86 times stronger than CO2 over a 20-year time frame.
Obama adviser John Podesta told reporters this week that the White House is “in the throes of finalizing” a government-wide strategy aimed at reducing accidental leaks of methane. The Washington Post reports that the new rules could be announced as soon as this month. They don’t require the approval of Congress.
Colorado, home to a booming natural-gas fracking industry, recently became the first state to clamp down on methane emissions. The state’s efforts were mostly supported by the natural gas industry, which stands to benefit financially by cutting back on the amount of product that wafts into the atmosphere instead of being sold to customers. Even frackers in Texas are starting to see that it might be smart to patch up those methane leaks.