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Obama Administration Announces Goal for Reducing Methane Emissions

On Thursday, the White House announced a new goal to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40–50 percent by 2025. According to details released this week, the Administration intends to propose new regulations as well as expand voluntary efforts already underway to meet this goal. The most significant regulatory step announced will be new rules to reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) and methane emissions at new or modified natural gas and oil production sources as well as processing and transmission facilities. The proposed regulations will be released later this summer and finalized in 2016. The announcement recognizes that industry has already taken many steps to lower overall emissions of methane even as total natural gas production and consumption has increased in the U.S. The Administration’s announcement underscores that the reductions associated with the new regulations and broader effort will be beneficial to the economy and improved public health. The Administration also plans to take steps to reduce methane venting and flaring activities on federal lands by regulating new and existing oil and gas production sites. Some industry associations have questioned the need for new regulations given the reductions already provided by voluntary efforts and the ability of such efforts to further reduce emissions.

In terms of voluntary efforts, the Administration plans to expand upon the EPA’s Natural Gas Star program and to also increase research and development funding. As such, President Obama’s fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget will propose $15 million in funding for the U.S. DOE to develop and demonstrate more cost-effective technologies to detect and reduce losses from natural gas transmission and distribution systems. The FY 2016 budget also will propose $10 million to launch a program at DOE to enhance the quantification of emissions from natural gas infrastructure.

More details and proposed regulations will follow later this year. A copy of the White House Fact Sheet is available here: http://goo.gl/rvp249.