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July 07, 2015

Investors Support White House Plan to Cut Methane Emissions
    by Robert Kropp

The Obama Administration proposes to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry by at least 45% by 2025, and investors coordinated by Ceres and Trillium Asset Management issue a statement expressing their support. -- It is certainly one measure of the evolution of climate science that concerns over methane emissions have come to equal or surpass those of carbon dioxide. When emitted directly into the atmosphere, methane is a greenhouse gas (GHG) as much as 36 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Last year, the Arctic Methane Emergency Group warned that accelerating melting of polar ice caps could release enough methane to pose “a catastrophic threat for civilization.”

It's a most unfortunate irony that as the imminent threat of danger of methane emissions from melting polar ice caps become well-known, the increase in hydraulic fracturing and other methods of oil and natural gas production have resulted in alarming new sources of methane emissions. By 2012, an international coalition of institutional investment organizations including the
Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR) was calling for "effective steps to minimize methane emissions by the oil and gas sector," as well as "effective regulations…to minimize fugitive methane emissions."

Earlier this year, the Obama administration
proposed regulations that would, a fact sheet stated, “cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 – 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025, and a set of actions to put the U.S. on a path to achieve this ambitious goal.” The actions proposed by the administration include new guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on volatile organic compounds, including methane; and more stringent requirements for greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting by the oil and gas industry.

Updated standards for the venting of methane from oil and gas wells on public land, as well as improved pipeline safety, are anticipated as well.

Last week, a coalition of institutional investors representing $1.5 trillion in assets under management expressed its support for the administration’s actions on methane emissions. Coordinated by
Ceres and Trillium Asset Management, the investors stated, “Consistent with our fiduciary duties, we are concerned that methane emissions pose a serious threat to climate stability, accelerating the rate of warming in the near term and threatening infrastructure and economic harm that will weaken not only the companies we invest in, but the nation as a whole.”

“Company-by-company engagement cannot fully address the issue,” the statement continued. “What is truly needed is a strong federal standard on methane that will level the playing field for all companies. We will continue to actively support the White House’s announced plan and advocate for a strong federal standard on methane.”

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan is expected to be issued this summer. In addition to regulating methane emissions, the Plan “will, for the first time, limit carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, which are responsible for nearly 40 percent of total U.S. global warming pollution,” according to the
Union of Concerned Scientists.

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