Last week the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) moved the minute hand on the Doomsday Clock two minutes closer to midnight. Advancement of the clock hand symbolizes experts’ concerns on the threat of global catastrophe. Kennette Benedict, executive director of the BAS warned that countries emitting carbon dioxide and other gases are transforming the Earth’s climate in a dangerous way, leaving millions vulnerable to rising sea levels, famines and killer storms. The executive director, however, emphasized that BAS’ message was not one of hopelessness, indicating that it is not too late to take action but that real steps need to be taken in order to avert abysmal catastrophe. See Rachel Reilly, Victoria Woollaston, and Jonathan O’Callaghan, Doomsday Clock reads 11.57: Atomic scientists move minute hand two minutes forward – and say we are at closest point to disaster in decades, Daily Mail (Jan. 23, 2015), available here.

In anticipation of this update, the Obama Administration announced on January 14, 2015, its renewed commitment to the reduction of methane emissions affecting global climate change. The announcement comes as oil production reaches its highest level in nearly 30 years and the U.S. advances in the world market to become the world’s largest natural gas producer.

In its press release, the Administration announced a new goal to cut methane emissions in the oil and gas sectors by 2025 to 40-50% below those recorded in 2012. To accomplish this mission: (1) the EPA will develop new guidelines to assist states in the reduction of ozone-forming pollutants from oil and gas systems in states along the Ozone Transport Region; (2) the EPA plans to continue promotion of transparency and accountability in the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program; (3) the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will update standards relating to oil and gas associated methane; (4) the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) will propose natural gas pipeline safety standards; and (5) the President’s budget for Fiscal Year 2016 will propose $15 million in funding for the Department of Energy (DOE) towards the development of reduction focused technology and another $10 million to a DOE program enhancing the quantification of emissions from natural gas infrastructure for inclusion in the national Greenhouse Gas Inventory. Additionally, the DOE will focus on modernizing natural gas transmission and distribution.

Experts now await release of the Quadrennial Energy Review (QER) expected to be unveiled in the upcoming weeks. The much anticipated QER will shed light on policy recommendations and proposals relating to the modernization of energy transmission, storage, and distribution infrastructure. See Press Release here.