Administration Moves to Reduce Natural Gas Emissions

The Obama administration this week announced initiatives meant to reduce the amount of methane escaping from the nation’s natural gas pipelines, after a government report faulted
little to plug the leaks, according to an article in the Houston Chronicle.

The administrative actions include a new research and development program aimed at devising better ways to find and plug leaks, according to the Chronicle. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz also is urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to consider ways it can give gas transmission companies the certainty they will recover the costs of replacing leak-prone pipes and making other retrofits.

While the changes are intended to reduce global warming related to methane emissions, Fred Krupp, President of the Environmental Defense Fund, said they don’t go far enough. “We need coordinated federal and state regulations to address methane pollution and tighten emissions standards,” he said.

The administration issued the recommendations one day after the Environmental Protection Agency’s Inspector General (IG) issued a report stating that the agency isn’t doing enough to reduce methane emissions from natural gas distribution pipelines and should consider boosting regulations and monitoring, according to an article on

“The EPA’s Office of Inspector General said the leaks harm the environment and consumers, who pay the price for natural gas valued at nearly $200 million that leaks annually from aging pipes carrying gas to homes and businesses,” the article states.

“The IG report said EPA’s voluntary programs to encourage companies to tamp down emissions have not been successful in persuading them to retrofit their aging, leaking pipes, in part because the benefits of preventing the escape of natural gas accrue to the consumer and not to LDCs,” the article continued. The report also reinforced that EPA had an obligation to address methane leakage from pipelines as part of the president’s Climate Action Plan.

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