Barclay Damon
Barclay Damon

Legal Alert

New York Releases Methane Reduction Plan

In response to the Trump Administration’s recent efforts to rescind federal methane-reduction programs and in furtherance of New York’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050, on May 17, 2017, Governor Andrew Cuomo released the Methane Reduction Plan (the “Plan”). The Plan provides the framework for implementing policies and regulations to reduce methane emissions in New York from the three sectors that, according to the data collected by New York, are responsible for the majority of methane emissions in the State: oil and gas, landfill, and agricultural. The Plan is meant to reduce methane emissions from these three sectors by charging the Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”), Department of Agriculture and Markets (“A&M”); Department of Public Service (“DPS”) and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (“NYSERDA”) with implementing by 2020 twenty-five actions detailed in the Plan, with some actions beginning in 2017. Implementation of the Plan could significantly increase the requirements and costs associated with the production, transmission, storage, and distribution of oil and natural gas in New York State as well as the operation of landfills and farming.

Oil and Gas Sector

According to the Plan, since the processing and transport of oil and natural gas results in 11% of methane emissions in New York, DEC and DPS will undertake eleven actions to implement new policies and regulations in the following three areas: reducing methane emissions from oil and gas infrastructure; increasing methane emission reporting requirements; and, improving regulatory consistency among agencies’ methane reduction requirements. As such, the Plan requires DEC and DPS to, among other things, implement regulations and/or policies to: 

  • include methane reduction requirements in its direct regulation of compressor stations and natural gas transmission lines as air emission sources;
  • require odorization and requirements for leak repair in existing gathering lines; 
  • require a reduction in emissions from oil and gas storage, abandoned wells and other infrastructure not directly regulated by DEC as emission sources;
  • prioritize leak repairs in the distribution system;
  • increase requirements for monitoring and reporting of emissions; and
  • update guidance for assessing greenhouse gas emissions under the State Environmental Policy Review Act (“SEQRA”).

Landfill Sector

According to the Plan, landfill emissions make up 58% of total methane emissions in New York. To reduce these emissions, the Plan requires DEC and NYSERDA to undertake nine actions with the goal of diverting organic waste from landfills and reducing methane emissions from waste decomposition. The Plan calls for DEC and NYSERDA to:

  • develop programs to encourage large generators of food waste to donate edible food or compost, anaerobically digest or otherwise recycle food waste;
  • continue funding municipalities, food banks and private parties to support diversion of organics;
  • revise Part 360 regulations to require gas collection systems in landfills;
  • develop best management practices and regulations for capturing and destroying landfill-generated methane; and
  • enhance monitoring and reporting of landfill emissions.

Agricultural Sector

Because emissions from agriculture comprise 22% of the State’s methane emissions, the Plan requires DEC to work with A&M, and NYSERDA to implement five actions in three areas: farm management practices; monitoring and reporting of these practices; and, soil carbon sequestration on farms. Among the specific actions that the Plan calls for are to:

  • incorporate methane reduction into State manure management programs;
  • improve greenhouse gas accounting in the Agricultural Environmental Management framework and ability to monitor methane reduction progress; and
  • identify programs to increase effective soil carbon sequestration.

The Cuomo Administration has been vocal about its opposition to the federal government’s efforts to pull back regulations targeted at addressing climate change. The Plan is just another example of New York’s intention to go above and beyond what is federally required and distinguish New York from the Trump Administration regardless of the significant increase in regulatory oversight, reporting, operating requirements and costs to industry.

Please contact us with any questions or if you would like assistance in evaluating the Plan’s potential impact on your company and/or ways that you can be involved in helping to shape the various state agencies’ implementation of the Plan.