In the News

President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed a resolution co-sponsored by Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, to restore Obama-era regulations on methane emissions by oil and gas producers.

Peters joined Biden at the White House Wednesday for the signing and said the resolution reinstates standards to limit the release of methane, a potent climate pollutant. Former President Donald Trump dismissed those rules through an administrative action in 2020, weakening or eliminating methane capture requirements for oil and gas facilities, Peters said.

“This bill reverses a Trump-era regulation that threw out the Obama rules governing methane pollution (and) restores the Obama-era methane controls for oil and gas systems,” Peters said. “It also repeals something in the Trump rule that would have prevented us from ever regulating methane again.”

Peters said the resolution, which he introduced with Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., and Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Pa., passed with bipartisan approval, including 12 Republican members of Congress and three Republican senators.

It also gained support from the natural gas industry, which sees methane reduction as necessary to remain globally competitive, he said. Three of the largest liquid natural gas importers — South Korea, Japan, and the European Union — have set goals to cut methane emissions to net-zero and demand clean gas from suppliers, including U.S. companies.

During hearings before the Energy and Commerce Committee, the oil and gas firms Occidental and British Petroleum submitted letters supporting the methane reduction measure.

“As long as our natural gas is considered dirty because we emit methane, countries around the world won’t want to buy from us,” Peters said.

Methane is part of a group of chemicals known as short-lived climate pollutants. The group includes ozone, black carbon or soot, and hydrofluorocarbons, used in air conditioning and refrigeration. These compounds don’t remain in the atmosphere as long as carbon, but have more powerful warming effects while they’re present.

Methane, generated by fossil fuel production, landfills and agriculture, accounts for about a quarter of the warming produced by greenhouse gases. Cutting emissions of methane and other climate pollutants can reduce warming immediately while government and industries develop long-term carbon reduction plans, proponents say.

The Obama-era regulations restricted new sources of methane gas, but Peters said restoring those rules is just a first step toward curbing the emissions.

“The Obama rules from 2016 are good rules,” he said. “They’re not state of the art. We can do better but couldn’t do more until we got rid of this.”

On Earth Day in April, Peters introduced a separate bill, the Methane Act, which would set methane reduction standards for new and existing facilities. With recent monitoring technology available to measure emissions, the bill would establish levels for methane reductions, phase in gradually tighter standards, and let companies decide how to reach those levels. The bill will be heard in committee soon, he said.

“Since 2016 the (methane) detection technology has come a long way, so now we can measure actual releases,” Peters said. “What Europe is doing and what my bill, the Methane Act, would do is issue regulations based on performance standards ... and leave it to the industry to decide how to do it.”

Peters said he was happy to start that process with the signing event in Washington Wednesday.

“It’s one of the bigger advances we’ve made in climate since I’ve been in Congress,” he said.