Interior Secretary Jewell Plugs Methane Reduction to Deal With 'Climate Change'

By Susan Jones | April 2, 2014 | 7:29 AM EDT

President Obama nominates Sally Jewell as his Interior Secretary. (AP File Photo)

( - Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, just back from a submarine trip to the Arctic Circle, says she's seen the melting ice up close, and "there is no question...that the impact of climate change is everywhere."

She said the United States, as the world's largest economy, has a "responsibility to be part of the solution," and she said the solution includes policy changes:

"We can change our policies," Jewell told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell on Tuesday.

"For example, methane emissions is -- there's a report that was just recently released by the White House. We play a role in regulating methane emissions and working alongside states and companies to reduce methane emissions, whether that's from oil and gas production or leaky pipelines or -- or other sources of methane emissions.
And we need to work collectively with industry, with state partners and policymakers.

"The other thing I'd mention is renewable energy." She noted that 50 renewable energy projects have been permitted on public lands since 2009. "And those are done in states where they have renewable energy standards. So the states are creating a market. We're facilitating the development of public lands and then companies step in with projects that make sense to them."

In his Climate Action Plan, announced in June 2013, President Obama directed his administration to come up with a strategy for cutting methane emissions.

On Friday (March. 28), the White House released its methane strategy, which falls heavily on the fossil fuel industry.

The strategy calls for reduced  methane emissions from coal mining, oil and gas companies, landfills and farms (cows). The reductions would be "voluntary" for dairy farms and existing landfills; but probably mandatory (via regulation) for coal mines and oil companies.

The White House listed the following "key steps."

Coal Mines: In April 2014, the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management will release an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to gather public input on the development of a program for the capture and sale, or disposal of waste-mine methane on lands leased by the Federal government.  

Oil and Gas:

-- In the spring of 2014, EPA will assess several potentially significant sources of methane and other emissions from the oil and gas sector. (This comes at a time when the Obama administration is under pressure to approved the Keystone XL pipeline.)

-- After getting input from independent experts, EPA will, in the fall of 2014, "determine how best to pursue further methane reductions from these sources. If EPA decides to develop additional regulations, it will complete those regulations by the end of 2016."

-- Later this year, the BLM will propose updated standards to reduce venting and flaring from oil and gas production on public lands.

Landfills: In the summer of 2014, the EPA will propose updated standards to reduce methane from new landfills and take public comment on whether to update standards for existing landfills.

Agriculture: In June, in partnership with the dairy industry, the USDA, EPA and DOE will jointly release a “Biogas Roadmap” outlining voluntary strategies to accelerate adoption of methane digesters and other cost-effective technologies to reduce U.S. dairy sector greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020.

The White House says methane accounts for nearly 9 percent of all the greenhouse gas emitted as a result of human activity in the United States, and without controls, that percentage is projected to rise in the years ahead.

"Reducing methane emissions is a powerful way to take action on climate change; and putting methane to use can support local economies with a source of clean energy that generates revenue, spurs investment and jobs, improves safety, and leads to cleaner air," the White House said.

"When fully implemented, the policies in the methane strategy will improve public health and safety while recovering otherwise wasted energy to power our communities, farms, factories, and power plants."

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