EPA and DOE Roll Out $350M to Cut Methane Pollution

Statement from EDF SVP for Political Affairs Elizabeth Gore

July 28, 2023
Austin Matheny-Kawesch, (858) 395-5577, amatheny@edf.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. — EPA and the Department of Energy this week announced plans to disburse $350 million to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. Funds from the Inflation Reduction Act’s Methane Emission Reduction Program (MERP) are earmarked to support methane pollution monitoring and innovation, improve the accuracy of emissions reporting and drive down the costs of reducing pollution, in addition to providing support for cutting other harmful air pollutants from oil and gas operations that endanger frontline communities. MERP also includes a fee on wasteful methane emissions beginning in 2024.

The announcement comes as the Biden Administration holds its first ever Methane Summit in the White House, highlighting the importance of an all of government approach to addressing methane pollution including strong, speedy finalization of EPA’s methane regulations.

“This is a critical first step in accelerating methane pollution reductions, especially for communities living near oil and gas operations,” said Elizabeth Gore, Environmental Defense Fund’s senior vice president for political affairs. “These funds will improve health outcomes for people living near sources of oil and gas pollution, and with more funding being distributed soon, we encourage the Biden administration to direct future MERP dollars directly to the communities in need.”

Methane is both a powerful climate pollutant and the main component of natural gas. Curbing methane emissions is a critical opportunity to protect our climate and communities while stopping the waste of energy resources. Methane is over 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in the near term, and human-caused methane emissions drive over a quarter of current global warming. Reducing oil and gas methane emissions is the fastest, most cost-effective way to slow our current rate of warming.

MERP allocated $1.55 billion to cut methane pollution from oil and gas industry operations through financial and technical assistance. The program will help reduce climate pollution from the oil and gas industry by improving and deploying new equipment, supporting technological innovation, permanently shutting in and plugging wells, and other activities, according to the EPA. This round of funding will help states permanently mitigate emissions from low-producing but high-emitting wells.

Recent scientific studies have shown that these low-producing wells are outsized contributors to the overall methane pollution problem, accounting for only 6% of oil and gas production in the U.S. but over half of well site methane emissions. Newer and better methane detection technologies like MethaneAIR and MethaneSAT are specifically designed to help uncover and fix these sources of pollution.

Operators will benefit from increased certainty under the methane fee, and MERP technical assistance funding will promote certainty for operators by providing the support operators need as they reduce emissions ahead of the fee and prepare for forthcoming EPA standards to cut methane pollution.

# # #

One of the world’s leading international nonprofit organizations, Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org) creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. To do so, EDF links science, economics, law, and innovative private-sector partnerships. With more than 3 million members and offices in the United States, China, Mexico, Indonesia and the European Union, EDF’s scientists, economists, attorneys and policy experts are working in 28 countries to turn our solutions into action. Connect with us on Twitter @EnvDefenseFund