President Barack Obama’s administration has released a strategy for reducing methane as part of the Administration’s Climate Action Plan. The Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions summarizes the sources of methane emissions, commits to new steps to cut emissions of this potent greenhouse gas and outlines the administration’s efforts to improve the measurement of these emissions. The strategy builds on progress to date and takes steps to further cut methane emissions from landfills, coal mining, and agriculture and oil and gas systems through cost-effective voluntary actions and common-sense standards. Key steps include:
- Landfills: In the summer of 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will propose updated standards to reduce methane from new landfills and take public comment on whether to update standards for existing landfills.
- Coal Mines: In April 2014, the Department of Interior’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.
- Agriculture: In June, in partnership with the dairy industry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), EPA and Department of Energy (DOE) will jointly release a “Biogas Roadmap” outlining voluntary strategies to accelerate the adoption of methane digesters and other cost-effective technologies to reduce U.S. dairy sector greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020.
- Oil and Gas: Building on the success in reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector through voluntary programs and targeted regulations, the Administration will take new actions to encourage additional cost-effective reductions.
Key steps include:
- In the spring of 2014, the EPA will assess several potentially significant sources of methane and other emissions from the oil and gas sector. EPA will solicit input from independent experts through a series of technical white papers, and in the fall of 2014, EPA will determine how best to pursue further methane reductions from these sources. If EPA decides to develop additional regulations, it will complete those regulations by the end of 2016.
- Later this year, the BLM will propose updated standards to reduce venting and flaring from oil and gas production on public lands.
- As part of the Quadrennial Energy Review, and through DOE-convened roundtables, the Administration will identify “downstream” methane reduction opportunities. Through the Natural Gas STAR program, EPA will work with the industry to expand voluntary efforts to reduce methane emissions.
- According to the Obama administration, emissions of methane make up nearly 9 percent of all the greenhouse gas emitted as a result of human activity in the United States. Since 1990, methane pollution in the United States has decreased by 11 percent, even as activities that can produce methane have increased. However, methane pollution is projected to increase to a level equivalent to over 620 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution in 2030 absent additional action to reduce emissions.
In response to the Obama administration's newly unveiled national plan to reduce methane emissions, the American Biogas Council (ABC) applauded the announcement since the construction and operation of new biogas systems will play a critical role. "Biogas systems convert organic materials which might otherwise be the source of methane emissions in landfills or lagoons. Biogas plants process these materials a controlled, fully-enclosed, natural biological system that not only captures the methane to create renewable electricity and fuel, but also produce valuable, nutrient-rich soil amendments that reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers. “The move to reduce national methane emissions translates to support for the growth of the U.S. biogas industry, the primary mission of the American Biogas Council,” the association says in a written statement.
“Because biogas systems provide a host of additional important benefits--renewable energy, soil nutrient recycling, localized waste solutions, and new jobs-growth of the biogas industry is one of the best ways to reduce national methane emissions,” the statement continues.
The ABC says it counts 2,000 operational biogas systems in the U.S., but estimates the market potential for 12,000 new biogas systems to process readily available organic waste.
“The agricultural sector alone could create $3 billion in products from biogas systems, according to a recent study by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. And the American Biogas Council estimates at least $3 billion in construction activity, 25,000 construction jobs and 1500 permanent jobs is also attainable. Significant growth in the biogas industry is a critical and readily available pathway for reduced methane emissions; the technology is proven and the US manufacturing base for components is growing rapidly,” the ABC concludes.