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New York State Unveils Methane Reduction Plan

Earlier this month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration released its Methane Reduction Plan (the “Plan”), setting forth 25 priority actions to reduce methane emissions as part of New York State’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050, as compared to 1990 levels. While the State continues its efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, methane is the second highest contributor to climate change and accounts for nine percent of the State’s greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions. The Plan focuses on reducing emissions from the oil and gas, landfill, and agriculture sectors by assessing existing and directing new measures, as well as by improving accounting of emissions. Implementation of the Plan is expected to begin this year.

While the Plan is a living document that is intended to be revised as additional information becomes available, the initial recommendations include the following:

Oil and gas sector: Because methane is a component of natural gas, natural gas processing and transport result in methane leakage. To mitigate these emissions, the Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) and Department of Public Service (“DPS”) will coordinate efforts to reduce infrastructure emissions, enhance reporting requirements, and improve regulatory consistency. The proposed actions include enhancing safety and monitoring measures; developing new regulations to limit emissions; implementing EPA rules such as the New Source Performance Standards and developing additional regulations to cover other facilities; addressing emissions from non-permitted, orphaned or abandoned infrastructure through regulatory and policy changes; proper plugging of abandoned wells; prioritizing leak repairs through rate cases, alternative funding or business models, and changes in tax policies; and improving State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”) guidance to address methane emissions and projected effects of climate change on infrastructure, including oil and gas infrastructure, related to new projects.

Landfill sector: Landfill emissions account for 58% of the State’s methane emissions, as methane results from the decomposition of organic matter. DEC and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (“NYSERDA”) will undertake efforts to lower emissions through organic waste diversion and better landfill management. Measures include increased efforts and programs for edible food donation, composting, and anaerobic digesters; proposed revisions to existing solid waste management regulations to require horizontal gas collection systems at landfills; promotion of best management practices for enhancing methane capture and reduction of emissions and odors; and improvement of SEQRA guidance to address projected effects of methane emissions and the effects of climate change on landfills.

Agriculture sector: Manure management and animal digestion are the primary methane sources in this sector, which make up 22% of the State’s methane emissions. DEC, NYSERDA, the Department of Agriculture and Markets (“DAM”), and the Soil and Water Conservation Committee (“SWCC”) will lead efforts to reduce these emissions through improved farm management practices, monitoring and reporting, and soil carbon sequestration. Proposed actions include funding for new and existing programs for Climate Resilient Farming; support for on-farm digester development in priority regions; and evaluation and promotion of new financing mechanisms and opportunities highlighted in the Clean Energy for Agriculture Task Force Strategic Plan.

New York State’s efforts provide a stark contrast to recent developments on a federal level, where the United State Environmental Protection Agency has recently delayed implementation of regulations limiting methane emissions from landfills and oil and gas wells and withdrawn a request that owners and operators in the oil and gas industry report additional information on their methane emissions.  The Cuomo administration expects that the Plan will continue to evolve as the State strives to meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals.

For additional information, please contact Jeff Gracer or Joyce E Kung.