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The U.S. Senate approved yesterday a return of methane emission regulation from the Obama era that was rolled back during Trump's administration.
The regulation, called Oil and Natural Gas New Source Performance Standards, was implemented in 2012 and 2016 and targeted methane leaks from new oil and gas wells and pipelines, Reuters reports.
"This is the first of many important steps the Senate will take," said Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, who was among the Senators who introduced the resolution for the reinstatement of the methane rules.
"If we can fix our methane problem we can quickly turn down the climate-warming impacts," said the lead sponsor of the bill, Martin Heinrich.
"It's a very serious public health issue," Heinrich said during an online event in late March, ahead of this month's vote for the return of the regulation. "In addition, it's a huge waste of a valuable resource. There's a reason the best-in-class producers don't lose nearly as much methane because they're investing, they want to keep that, that's their product, that's what they sell."
Senator Heinrich is from New Mexico, one of the biggest oil-producing states in the United States.
Methane only came in the focus of environmentalist and regulatory attention relatively recently as a continuation of the drive to reduce carbon emissions. Methane leaks are common in the oil industry and, over the short term, more harmful to the atmosphere than CO2 because of their greater greenhouse effect. However, methane has a much shorter life than carbon dioxide.
Last year when the pandemic hit, methane emissions slumped by as much as 60 percent as drillers curbed production. Now, as drilling begins to recover, emissions are recovering, too, and at a much faster rate. So if production ever reaches pre-pandemic levels, methane emissions could hit a new record in the absence of regulatory and voluntary action.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com