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White House Releases Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions

Reducing methane emissions is a powerful way to take action on climate change; and putting methane to use can support local economies with a source of c...

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|Mar 28|magazine8 min read

Reducing methane emissions is a powerful way to take action on climate change; and putting methane to use can support local economies with a source of clean energy that generates revenue, spurs investment, improves safety, and leads to cleaner air.

In his Climate Action Plan, President Barack Obama directed the Administration to develop a comprehensive, interagency strategy to cut methane emissions and on March 28 the White House released its strategy.

Currently, methane accounts for nearly 9 percent of domestic greenhouse gas emissions. And although U.S. methane emissions have decreased by 11 percent since 1990, they are projected to increase through 2030 if additional action is not taken.

As a key element of the Climate Action Plan, this strategy outlines new actions to reduce methane emissions. These actions will improve public health and safety while providing more energy to power our communities, farms, factories, and power plants. These steps will also make an important contribution to meeting the Administration goal of reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

Estimates show that steps along these lines could deliver greenhouse gas emissions reductions up to 90 million metric tons in 2020. The Administration is pursuing a targeted strategy that builds on progress to date and takes steps to further cut methane emissions from a number of key sources:

Oil and Gas: Building on the success of voluntary programs and targeted regulations in reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, the Administration will take new actions to encourage additional cost-effective reductions.

Landfills: The Environmental Protection Agency proposed updated standards to reduce methane from new landfills and take public comment on whether to update standards for existing landfills. Through the Landfill Methane Outreach Program, EPA will further reduce methane emissions through voluntary programs – partnering with industry, state, and local leaders, many of whom are putting the methane waste to use powering their communities

Coal Mines: In April of 2014, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will release an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to gather public input on the development of a program for the capture and sale, or disposal, of waste mine methane on lands leased by the Federal government. In addition, EPA will continue to partner with industry through its voluntary program to reduce institutional, technical, regulatory, and financial barriers to beneficial methane recovery and use at coal mines

Agriculture: In June, in partnership with the dairy industry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, EPA and the Department of Energy will jointly release a “Biogas Roadmap” outlining voluntary strategies to accelerate adoption of methane digesters and other cost-effective technologies to reduce U.S. dairy sector greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020. USDA and EPA will also continue to support biodigester technology deployment by providing financial and technical assistance through voluntary programs.

Beyond these actions to reduce domestic methane emissions, the United States is also helping partners around the world to reduce methane emissions, including through the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the Global Methane Initiative.