The oil and gas industry leaks millions of tons of methane pollution every year. Methane is a component of natural gas and a powerful contributor to climate change. Pound for pound, it traps more than 80 times as much heat on our planet, in the short term, as carbon dioxide. The oil and gas industry wastes enough methane to power more than seven million American homes.
NRDC works to secure limits on methane pollution at the state and national levels. We remind policy makers that no credible plan to combat climate change can ignore methane emissions. And we emphasize that methane reductions can also clean up other air pollution that scientists have linked to asthma, heart attacks, and premature death.
We partner with public health experts, business executives, labor unions, community leaders, and other allies to demonstrate broad support for cutting methane pollution. Our technical experts document the proven, cost-effective strategies that oil and gas companies can use to reduce methane waste, while our policy experts spotlight the strong legal foundation for methane limits.
By keeping the pressure on, NRDC helped persuade the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to propose limits on new and modified sources of methane pollution. We welcomed this step forward—offering expert comments on the proposal—but we’re also pushing the agency to tackle existing sources.
The vast majority of methane leaks come from operations that have already been built. Without standards that fix leaks at existing oil and gas sites, by 2020, 90 percent of methane pollution from the oil and gas industry will be from facilities that already exist today. President Obama highlighted the threat posed by the industry’s methane pollution in January 2015 when he announced a goal of reducing methane pollution from the oil and gas sector 40 percent to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025. To reach that target, the EPA will have to address existing sources, and NRDC continues to provide the technical, legal, and public support for the strongest limits possible.
We have also weighed in on the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed standards for addressing methane waste from oil and gas operations on public lands, which is the first federal initiative focused on existing facilities. These operations alone waste more than $330 million worth of methane each year by simply burning it off or letting it escape into the atmosphere. And we offer expert input on state-level standards. California and Pennsylvania are in the process of making commitments to reduce methane leaks, fighting climate change and cleaning up the air in the process. We encourage other states to join the effort.