There is reason for hope on federal methane policy next year as we all seek to turn the page on a devastating and traumatic 2020.
Right now, the Trump administration’s senseless and unconscionable attack on effective rules to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry is being challenged in federal court, and the Biden administration will rightfully treat the climate crisis as an existential threat, not a hoax.
This time next year representatives from across the globe will be returning from the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, postponed by a full year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
COP26 should be an ambitious time for the United States to announce new commitments toward avoiding the worst effects of climate change. Luckily, by COP26, the United States will have reentered the Paris Climate Agreement in conjunction with President-elect Joe Biden’s goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Since 2013, as my interest and knowledge about the environment has grown, I’ve also become aware of methane’s destructive greenhouse gas effect. Methane can come from our nation’s energy and agricultural practices, but one less obvious source are “orphan wells.”
Orphan wells are oil and gas wells which were abandoned for various reasons. Once abandoned, many were not properly capped, leading to methane and carbon dioxide leaks. According to a recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report, the United States has about 3.2 million abandoned U.S. oil and gas wells, about one-third of them capped.
EPA estimates the wells emitted roughly 218 kilotons of methane in 2018, the latest year measured. This number could be much higher due to incomplete data.
The Earthworks Methane Misinformation Scorecard shows that oil and gas company commitments on climate have failed to translate into significant climate action. The research tracks promises to cut methane and tackle climate from 8 major oil and gas companies and compares them to actions taken by those same companies to reduce climate pollution.