EDF Applauds New Obama Administration Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions

March 28, 2014
Lauren Whittenberg, (512) 691-3437, lwhittenberg@edf.org
Alison Omens, (202) 507-4843, aomens@outreachstrategies.com

(WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 28, 2014) The White House today announced its Interagency Methane Strategy, which outlines a series of steps and a timeline that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Departments of Energy and Interior will follow to reduce emissions of this potent greenhouse gas and threat to public health. The announcement is an important step that follows through on President Obama’s June 25 creation of a task force charged with developing a comprehensive plan to control methane from multiple sectors, including the oil and gas sector — the largest industrial source of methane pollution in the United States. EDF experts will hold a teleconference today at 2:15pm Eastern to comment on the new strategy. For call-in information, see below.

“This announcement is the most recent development in a year where both the impacts and solutions from methane emissions have come into clearer focus, creating new momentum for action. Methane pollution is an intense contributor to global climate change, and the White House methane strategy is  a smart roadmap for taking on the biggest sources of emissions, including natural gas leaks from the oil and gas sector,” said Fred Krupp, President, Environmental Defense Fund.

Krupp added, “This strategy has the potential to deliver the federal regulatory oversight that is needed to complement state efforts and make sure that all of the oil and gas industry meets basic, commonsense standards to deploy readily available technologies. The most important work of turning this strategy into action lies ahead, but we are confident that the case for action is strong and will prove out in the end.

“A federal strategy to reduce venting, flaring, and leaks of natural gas is good for the environment and good for national energy security. We have the cost effective solutions. Now it’s imperative we employ these to stop wasting natural gas. A federal policy that establishes a  level playing field will ensure that all of industry does its part to reduce pollution and waste at a time when making the most of domestic energy resources is critically important. This is a challenge where both federal and state action is needed,” said Krupp.

Why Methane Matters

The White House announcement comes at time of heightened awareness of methane’s role in global climate change. More than one-third of today’s human-caused global warming comes from highly potent, short-lived climate pollutants that include methane, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This special class of greenhouse gas and aerosol pollution (which also includes black carbon, tropospheric ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs) contributes to extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts and more intense storms. And these emissions are on the rise. IPCC data suggests that about 30 percent of the warming we will experience over the next two decades as a result of this year’s greenhouse gas emissions will come from methane.

The last six months have brought an improved scientific understanding of methane emissions from the oil and natural gas supply chain. Four major scientific studies, some of which EDF was a partner and in others where we have been a supportive observer, have been published in leading peer-reviewed journals, all emphasizing the critical need to reduce emissions. EDF initiated an extensive and collaborative scientific project in 2012 to better understand from where and how much methane is lost across today’s U.S. natural gas supply chain. Additional studies within this series will be completed and submitted for scientific peer-review in 2014.

This announcement is also the most recent development in a year where both the challenges and solutions from methane emissions are beginning to crystalize. In February, Colorado adopted the nation’s strictest oil and gas air pollution rules that for the first time directly regulate methane. This month, ICF International released an economic analysis that shows companies can reduce methane emissions by 40 percent over the next five years for less than a penny per thousand cubic feet of gas produced, saving enough gas to cook more than 10 billion home cooked dinners. The ICF analysis also found that 90 percent of the reduction opportunity for industry comes from existing sources, where current EPA regulations only focus on new sources and a limited subset of all oil and gas activity.

EDF has been working since 2010 to reduce the environmental impacts associated with unconventional oil and gas development, including water and local air pollution, harm to ecosystems, communities and public health, and the climate impact of methane emissions. Learn more about EDF’s natural gas work here.

EDF Media Call on New Federal Methane Strategy

On Friday, March 28 at 2:15pm Eastern, Mark Brownstein, Associate Vice President and Chief Counsel of EDF’s US Climate & Energy Program, and Jeremy Symons, EDF Senior Director, Climate Policy, will comment on the new White House Interagency Methane Strategy. To attend the call dial 1-800-755-1805. 

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Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading national nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook.