Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a potent climate pollutant up to 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide on a 20-year timeframe. Currently the United States loses at least 1 to 3 percent of its total natural gas production each year when methane is leaked or vented to the atmosphere. Federal regulations could reduce methane emissions by up to 50 percent at little or no net cost, using available technologies.
This policy brief provides an overview of the science of methane, oil and gas sector methane emissions, the history of federal action, available methane emission reduction opportunities, and potential regulatory pathways to secure methane reductions under the Clean Air Act. Because methane is so potent in the near-term, federal regulation to curb its release can reduce imminent climate effects and lower the overall cost of climate mitigation.