Biden Administration Announces Dramatic Plan to Cut Methane Pollution

Emissions-wise, new EPA rule is akin to closing all remaining coal-fired plants.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the COP28 U.N. Climate Summit, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Kamran Jebreili/AP

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The Biden administration announced an ambitious new plan on Saturday to dramatically curb methane emissions, the second biggest cause of global warming after carbon dioxide. It would require oil and gas producers to detect and fix leaks of methane for the first time.

The announcement came as the United Nations hosted the Cop28 climate summit in Dubai, where Vice President Kamala Harris delivered brief remarks. “We must have the ambition to meet this moment, to accelerate our investments and to lead with courage and conviction,” she said.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimated that the new rule would prevent 58 million tons of methane emissions from 2024 to 2038—roughly equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide emitted annually by coal-fired power plants in the United States. The administrative rule doesn’t need congressional approval and will take effect next year, although conservative groups are likely to challenge it in court. (The US Supreme Court has already placed limits on the administration’s efforts to fight climate change.)

Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, called the policy “the most impactful climate rule that the United States has ever adopted in terms of addressing temperatures we would otherwise see.”

In a separate announcement at the UN summit, the world’s 50 largest oil producers reached a new pact to reduce methane emissions by 80 to 90 percent by the end of the decade.

Still, environmental groups have criticized Biden for not doing more to fight climate change by targeting fossil fuels like oil, coal, and gas. The administration has approved new drilling leases this year and domestic oil production has surged. The United States is poised to extract record amounts of oil and gas in 2023, which is on track to be the hottest year on record. Biden skipped the UN summit to focus on other issues, including Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

Environmentalists have also faulted the UN for holding the summit in the United Arab Emirates, one of the world’s largest oil producers. The president of the summit is the head of the state-owned oil company.

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