News Feature | April 8, 2014

White House May Crack Down On Methane From Wastewater Operations

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


The Obama administration took aim at methane emissions from wastewater operations in its new strategy to combat climate change. 

According to the White House strategy, released late last month, wastewater treatment operations are responsible for 2 percent of human-related methane emissions. 

The new strategy supports efforts by the U.S. to work with the Global Methane Initiative, a public-private partnership including over 40 countries as well as the top 10 major methane emitters, the strategy said. 

"Methane is produced when the organic material in municipal wastewater decomposes anaerobically. Varying amounts of methane are emitted during the collection, handling, and treatment of wastewater depending on methods employed," the GMI explains in its literature

Methane solutions for the wastewater industry include, in large part, "optimizing existing facilities/systems that are not being operated correctly and implementing proper operation and maintenance," the literature said.

The White House strategy also aims to reduce methane leaks from the energy industry. 

"Oil and gas methane leakage is the U.S.’s second largest industrial source of heat-trapping pollution, exceeded only by the carbon pollution from power plants and other energy generation uses," an Energy Collective article reported

Under the administration's plan, the EPA will study sources of methane from the oil and gas sector later this year. 

"If EPA decides to develop additional regulations, it will complete those regulations by the end of 2016," the administration strategy said. 

Some critics argue that natural gas fracking sites are responsible for high methane levels in groundwater, which has sometimes led to flammable tap water. This link is disputed by the energy industry, which points out that methane occurs naturally in some wells. 

The White House strategy includes voluntary standards for the agriculture industry. The aim is to reduce water pollution as well as air pollution.  

The plan said a Biogas Roadmap will be released in June to accelerate the adoption of biogas technology by agriculture. 

"Biogas systems are proven and effective technology to process organic waste and generate renewable energy. They can reduce the risk of potential air and water quality issues while providing additional revenue for the operation. They can reduce the risk of potential air and water quality issues while providing additional revenue for the operation," the report said.

For more on government oversight, check out Water Online's Legislation and Regulations Solution Center

Image credit: "POTUS," © 2012 Sean Davis, used under an Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license:

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