The White House today unveiled a federal interagency strategy to reduce methane pollution from oil and gas production, coal mines, agriculture and landfills. The strategy report, released as part of the United States Climate Action Plan, sets the stage for curbing methane emissions, the second-largest climate pollutant after carbon dioxide and a serious threat to our health and the environment.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) that has 20 times the warming impact of carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. Methane emissions account for about nine percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. According to the report, the main sources of human-related methane emissions are agriculture (36 percent), natural gas systems (23 percent), landfills (18 percent), coal mining (10 percent), petroleum systems (six percent), and wastewater treatment (two percent).

The White House strategy includes:

  • Proposing a new Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rule later this year to control the venting and flaring of gas in federal oil and gas developments.
  • Issuing a BLM advanced notice of proposed rulemaking by the end of 2014 to address methane emissions from coal mines.
  • Issuing a series of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) briefing papers looking at key sources of methane in the oil and gas sector.
  • Determining by this fall whether additional regulations are needed to control methane from the oil and gas industry, which was responsible for 28 percent of U.S. methane emissions in 2012; should additional regulations be required, the strategy commits to completing those regulations by the end of 2016.
  • Proposing updated EPA standards to reduce methane from new landfills and taking public comment on whether to update standards for existing landfills.

In June 2013, President Obama set out an ambitious strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and the administration has already made significant strides to achieve the strategy’s goal of a 17 percent reduction of GHGs by 2020. The administration has already taken action to cut GHG emissions from cars and trucks and has committed to action on new and existing power plants. However, the U.S. will certainly not reach the GHG reduction target without directly addressing methane sources, making today's announcement especially important.

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