FOLLOWING President Barack Obama's broad-based Climate Action Plan announced last June that described a series of executive actions to reduce carbon pollution and lead international efforts to address global climate change, the Administration released its "Interagency Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions" on March 28.
The strategy summarizes the sources of methane emissions, commits to new steps to cut emissions of this potent greenhouse gas and outlines the Administration's efforts to improve the measurement of these emissions.
According to a fact sheet from the White House, the strategy builds on progress made to date and takes steps to further cut methane emissions from landfills, coal mining, agriculture and oil and gas systems through voluntary actions and commonsense standards.
Key steps comprise:
* Landfills. This summer, the Environmental Protection Agency will propose updated standards to reduce methane from new landfills and seek public comment on whether to update standards for existing landfills.
* Coal mines. In April, the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management will release an advance notice of proposed rule-making to gather public input on developing a program for the capture and sale or disposal of waste mine methane on lands leased by the federal government.
* Oil and gas. Building on success in reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector through voluntary programs and targeted regulations, the Administration will take new actions to encourage additional cost-effective reductions.
* Agriculture. In June, in partnership with the dairy industry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, EPA and U.S. Department of Energy will jointly release a "Biogas Roadmap" outlining voluntary strategies to accelerate the adoption of methane digesters and other cost-effective technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. dairy sector 25% by 2020.
"Across the country, farmers and ranchers are taking action to protect natural resources, and the Administration's methane reduction strategy provides additional voluntary actions producers can take to cut methane emissions," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "USDA will help producers implement these strategies, including methane capture technologies like anaerobic digesters and biogas systems, which create jobs and allow producers to tap into a $3 billion market for renewable energy.
"The voluntary strategies outlined today expand USDA's efforts to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change," Vilsack added, pointing to USDA's recently announced climate hubs (Feedstuffs, Feb. 10).
U.S. dairy farmers, cooperatives, processors, manufacturers and other industry leaders applauded the methane plan, particularly the pending partnership with USDA to develop methane digester technologies.
In its announcement, the White House formally cited the work of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy's Sustainability Council, which formed a partnership with USDA to proactively reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including methane.
Through the innovation center, the dairy industry ramped up its efforts more than five years ago to build business value while reducing the environmental impact across the value chain.
"This announcement validates the path the dairy industry is on — one focused on proactive incentives that can increase farm income, not punitive regulations that would add more costs," Jim Mulhern, president and chief executive officer of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), said.
The biogas roadmap will accelerate the adoption of biogas systems and other cost-effective technologies. For example, NMPF said the recovery of nitrogen and phosphorus — valuable soil nutrients — has the potential to make these systems revenue enhancing for dairy farms of all sizes.
NMPF said biogas systems were singled out because of the significant potential they have to help address methane, which is the single largest source of the dairy industry's greenhouse gas emissions. These systems recycle cow manure and food waste into valuable co-products like fertilizer, renewable energy and cow bedding.
The new roadmap will help the industry capitalize on opportunities by:
* Breaking down intergovernmental agency barriers, providing dairy operations with access to resources because the roadmap formally recognizes biogas systems as a proven and effective technology to mitigate environmental risks;
* Stimulating and accelerating research to advance technologies, such as for extracting nutrients from food waste and manure, and
* Attracting additional third-party investment, both financial and technical, to support the U.S. dairy sustainability commitment.