Biden administration halts involvement in “certified” methane gas standards
Reversal highlights greenwashing risks of gas certification schemes
The Department of Energy has declined to endorse a standard for “certified” or “responsibly sourced” methane gas following pressure from a large coalition of climate and environmental justice organizations.
Last week Gas Leaks, Earthworks and Oil Change International launched the Certified Disasters campaign and sent a letter signed by 148 organizations demanding the agency halt its involvement in certification schemes, which are being used to market methane gas as “clean” and justify the construction of gas export facilities, pipelines, power plants and gas-dependent buildings.
In a statement to media, the agency said it is “not introducing or endorsing any natural gas certification measures or standards, but instead is working with natural gas importing and exporting countries to develop an agreed approach” to measuring and reporting methane pollution from the oil and gas industry.
“The Department of Energy’s announcement that they will not be issuing a standard for ‘certified’ methane gas is good news,” said Caleb Heeringa, Campaign Director of Gas Leaks. “There’s no such thing as ‘clean’ gas and the industry doesn’t deserve ‘extra credit’ for meeting their legal obligation to reduce their methane pollution, which is worsening the deadly heat waves currently gripping the country. It’s vital that national and global methane regulations serve to clean up the gas industry and halt its expansion, not provide it a free marketing campaign.”
“Methane gas will never be clean. Therefore, national and global methane regulations must halt the fossil fuel industry’s gas expansion,” said Allie Rosenbluth, Oil Change International US Campaign Manager. “While the Department of Energy’s decision not to endorse a standard for ‘certified’ methane gas is a step in the right direction, we are concerned its strategies around measurement, monitoring, reporting, and verification (MMRV) will provide cover and legitimacy to an industry that must aggressively be both cleaned up and phased out. We demand a responsible approach that protects our communities and the environment.”
“Extreme weather and temperatures across the globe are a critical reminder that we need to rapidly reduce fossil fuel production and methane emissions,” said Lauren Pagel, Policy Director, Earthworks. “We are encouraged by the Department of Energy’s decision not to create ‘clean gas’ certification standards which would have been another concession to the oil and gas industry and helped legitimize the myth that methane gas can be considered ‘clean’ or ‘safe.’”
Recent attention on methane pollution from the oil and gas industry has led to a proliferation of third-party companies that claim to monitor gas extraction sites for methane and “certify” that they are limiting pollution. But there is no industry standard for what level of emissions reductions make gas “responsibly sourced,” and no reliable way to measure emissions at their source. Recent investigations by Earthworks and Oil Change International show that one of the largest gas certifiers has routinely missed major methane pollution events, raising serious questions about the validity of these programs.
Recent reporting suggested that the Department of Energy was considering weighing in to set a standard, which would lend legitimacy to the concept of “certified” gas and allow the oil and gas industry to present their product to the public as “clean.”
Industry giants like BP and local gas utilities across the country are already marketing their use of “certified” gas and often charging their customers a premium. The industry is using the concept to justify the continued expansion of fracking, gas pipelines, buildings with gas appliances and gas export facilities that pollute the air and water in communities of color on the Gulf Coast – the very same environmental justice communities that the Biden Administration publicly claims to be protecting. Climate scientists and energy experts like the International Energy
Agency agree that avoiding the worst climate outcomes means halting the expansion of methane gas (regardless of how much methane is released during fracking and from pipelines), including no new extraction as of 2021 and no new gas appliances sold by 2025.