WASHINGTON The Obama administration as soon as Wednesday will announce its plans for curbing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, which the United States must do to meet its 2020 target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, people familiar with the issue said Tuesday.
The government reaffirmed that goal last week at U.N. climate talks in Lima.
The Environmental Protection Agency said it would announce its administration-wide methane strategy by the end of the fall. Administrator Gina McCarthy hinted recently that the agency will combine voluntary actions with some regulation, which would need to be finalized by 2016.
People familiar with the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the plans could come out as soon as Wednesday.
Methane emissions, the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions with 9 percent of output in 2012, are expected to rise.
The EPA may seek to address them by imposing curbs on methane leaking from oil and gas production, and by tightening standards for emissions from landfill and agriculture.
Rick Duke, associate director for energy and climate at the White House, said at United Nations climate talks in Lima last week that curbing methane could help the United States meet its target to cut greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 26-28 percent by 2025.
Environmental groups want the administration to target methane directly from existing facilities rather than voluntary guidelines.
"The administration needs the extra tonnes to be able to make both of those international commitments," said Conrad Schneider of the Clean Air Task Force. "It would be devastating to them to announce they will not do that before the ink is dry on the Lima agreement."
He called methane the "missing piece of the puzzle" of President Barack Obama's Climate Action Plan, which relies on executive actions to achieve emission cuts.
The centerpiece of the strategy is the Clean Power Plan, which targets carbon emissions from existing power plants. Researchers say this only gets the United States part of the way to the 2020 target.
"The Clean Power Plan is a huge component of the Climate Action Plan, but it's insufficient," said Kate Larsen, director at researchers the Rhodium Group. "You really need to attack each of the sectors to achieve enough reductions."
An October report by the group projected methane emissions will grow 5 percent by 2020 without any efforts to curb them.
(Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)