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Cover Me, Part 4 - EPA Proposal Brings Third Parties into Fight Against Methane 'Super-Emitters'

The Biden administration’s first foray into reducing methane emissions from oil and gas operations, released in November 2021, promised to reduce emissions from hundreds of thousands of existing sites, expand and strengthen emission-reduction requirements, and encourage the use of new technologies. It was clear about one other thing too, namely that more was already in the works. And sure enough, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently followed up with a proposal that significantly broadens the initial plan. In today’s RBN blog we look at that supplemental proposal, its targeting of so-called “super-emitters,” and why third-party groups will play a bigger role in mitigating methane emissions in the years ahead.

We have written extensively about greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over the past few years. Carbon dioxide (CO2) has often been the focus, but methane is also an important part of those discussions because it’s a particularly powerful GHG, with a Global Warming Potential (GWP) that is 25-36 times that of CO2 when normalized to a 100-year timeline. (And more than 80 times that of CO2 if normalized to a 20-year timeline.) A tricky part of the problem is that the actual level (and sources) of methane emissions can be hard to accurately identify and quantify, mostly because estimates can vary greatly depending on how they’re calculated, as we discussed in Part 1 of this series.

In Part 2, we detailed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and its Methane Emissions Reduction Program (MERP), which includes the federal government’s first penalty on GHG emissions of any kind, starting at $900 per metric ton (MT), or about $17/MMBtu, beginning in 2024 and ramping up to $1,500/MT (~$29/MMBtu) in 2026. The multifaceted approach to regulation utilized by the U.S. to combat methane emissions, through the IRA and other measures, was the focus of Part 3. Notably, the methane emissions tax under MERP is intended to work with or without new EPA rules.

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