Cutting Methane Emissions Is Simple and Cost Effective — and a Powerful Climate Solution

While the Biden administration prioritizes slashing methane emissions, Republicans challenge regulatory tools that limit this potent greenhouse gas

Climate on the Ballot banner

Sign up for the weekly Climate on the Ballot newsletter.

Welcome to Climate on the Ballot, Covering Climate Now’s weekly elections newsletter. Every week, we’ll pass along a topic and offer up some advice on how to integrate it into your coverage. Vea la versión en español de “El clima en la boleta.”

This Week: Methane

Greenhouse gases are not all created equal. Methane, for example, is 80 times more potent but has a far shorter lifespan in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide: seven to 12 years, as opposed to hundreds. Leaking coal mines and inefficient or abandoned oil and gas wells are a big source of methane emissions, making addressing methane leaks an important local story for reporters in energy-producing states. As the “second most abundant anthropogenic GHG” in the atmosphere after CO2, cutting methane emissions is the single fastest way to slow planetary warming. According to a new study, doing so “would give the world a much-improved chance of limiting temperature rises to 1.5 [degrees] C[elsius].”

Reporting Ideas

  • Ask candidates how they plan to cut methane emissions. The US is the world’s largest emitter of methane from oil and gas extraction. A few “super-emitters” generate the majority of those emissions, meaning that regulations to restrict flaring and prevent leaks at large facilities could make a big difference. Dig in: The EPA’s “Facility Level Information on GreenHouse gases Tool” (FLIGHT) provides information about methane emissions from large facilities.
  • Report out where your state attorney general stands on the EPA’s new methane regulations. Announced in December 2023, the rule requires the oil and gas industry to cut methane emissions nearly 80% by 2038. Twenty-four state attorneys general have joined Oklahoma in a lawsuit challenging the rule, and Texas attorney general Ken Paxton has filed a separate lawsuit, despite polling that indicates two-thirds of Texans support regulations. Eighteen states and DC have joined California in filing a motion to defend the rule.
  • Check the congressional record. Last week, House Republicans held a raft of hearings, floor debates, and votes on energy-related bills, including one that would claw back a provision of the Inflation Reduction Act that tackles methane pollution. Who voted for it? Who voted against it?
  • Investigate what’s being done to find and cap abandoned wells. No one knows the exact number of abandoned wells that remain uncapped, but experts believe there are hundreds of thousands (perhaps even millions), accounting for nearly 3% of total US methane emissions. An unprecedented $4.7 billion was set aside in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Law to fix the problem. Additionally, millions of Americans live within one mile of an abandoned mine or well, according to the Department of the Interior, so there could be one in your backyard.

Take Inspiration

  • The Biden administration wants to toughen regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from existing gas power plants, according to The Washington Post. But the administration has decided to delay action until after the election because of a 2022 Supreme Court ruling that Congress must approve EPA energy sector rule changes.
  • Plugging all of California’s 100,000 defunct wells could cost an estimated $10 billion, wrote the Los Angeles Times. Taxpayers could be left holding the bag if the responsible fossil fuel companies go bankrupt.
  • “An infusion of federal money [helped] Louisiana plug nearly 500 abandoned oil and gas wells” in 2023, reported the Louisiana Illuminator — but it’s not nearly enough. After the first round of funding, the federal government tightened rules. Now, to receive funding, states will have to measure how much methane is released at each well. Most states haven’t started doing that. Has yours?
  • Pennsylvania has capped 100 abandoned wells in the past 14 months, more than the previous nine years combined, PhillyVoice explained. There are about 350,000 abandoned wells, the state estimates; only 30,000 have been identified. Governor Josh Shapiro has set up a hotline for Pennsylvanians to report abandoned wells.
  • Repealing the IRA is a top priority of Donald Trump’s if he’s elected in November, wrote MIT Technology Review. Methane fees are one provision that could go.

Spotlight Piece

Whoever voters choose to send back to the White House will have a big impact on US climate policy, and, as Jennifer McDermott and Gary D. Robertson reported for the AP, climate is also on the ballot locally. “In campaigns for Congress and for governor around the country, candidates are talking about how green the grid should be, too.”

Want to share feedback and stories inspired by this newsletter? Shoot us a note at