EPA’s Lax Methane Stance Decried

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Tuesday, January 25, 2022
Tim Whitehouse (202) 247-0399

EPA’s Lax Methane Stance Decried

EPA’s 100Year Standard for Methane Minimizes Climate Change Impact


Washington, D.C. – By using a century-long timeframe for measuring the atmospheric impact of methane, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is inappropriately weakening efforts to combat climate change, according to public comments filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

Today marks the end of the public comment period for EPA’s Proposed Standards of Performance for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources and Emissions Guidelines for Existing Sources: Oil and Natural Gas Sector Climate Review. The Regulatory Impact Analysis that EPA uses calculates the Proposed Standards impact using methane’s global warming potential – its contribution to climate change relative to carbon dioxide – over 100 years.

Pointing to a growing body of scientific evidence, PEER argues that EPA’s 100-year view is misguided because methane breaks down more quickly than carbon dioxide with an average lifetime of around a decade. Yet, during the first years after release, methane is approximately 80 times more powerful than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere.

“EPA’s century-long measure for impact minimizes the atmospheric effects of methane and thus undercuts the appropriate regulatory priority for controlling these emissions,” stated PEER Executive Director Tim Whitehouse, a former EPA attorney, noting that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change uses the 20-year global warming potential in its recommendations for reducing methane emissions. “We are in a climate emergency and cannot afford to look past potential tipping points that are decades – not a century – away.”

Methane is the main component of natural gas, whose usage has skyrocketed in recent decades. Each year, the U.S. oil and gas industry emits 13 million metric tons of methane.

In its Proposed Standards, EPA did not explain why it calculated methane’s climate impact using only the 100-year scale. PEER has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for records reflecting EPA’s reasons for rejecting the 20-year measure for methane climactic impact.

“Countering climate change requires EPA to move faster than bureaucratic business as usual,” added Whitehouse, pointing out that EPA should have made the information available during the public comment period. “EPA should be using the best available science and the best available science indicates that methane’s major climate impact is within the first twenty years after release into the atmosphere.”


Read the PEER comments

View the EPA proposed standards

Look at short-term methane climate impact

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