Cuomo Administration Releases Methane Reduction Plan

Last week, the Cuomo administration released a new plan to curb methane emissions through initiatives from several state agencies, including the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Public Service, the Department of Agriculture and Markets, the Soil and Water Conservation Committee, and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). New York State’s ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction goals include methane, which accounts for at least 9% of the states greenhouse gas emissions, but so far, most initiatives by the state have focused on carbon dioxide emission reductions. The Methane Reduction Plan maps out ongoing work and makes 25 recommendations to reduce emissions from three sectors: oil and gas, landfills, and agriculture. Here are our takeaways:

Better detection, tracking, and remediation of leaks in natural gas infrastructure and better oversight of active natural gas wells and plugging of abandoned natural gas and oil wells. Methane is the primary component of natural gas, and the processing and transport of natural gas result in leakage and emissions of methane from storage facilities, transmission and distribution networks, and natural gas wells. The Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Public Service will work to reduce methane leakage, improve management of methane emissions by requiring monitoring and reporting, and improve consistency of regulations across programs and departments.

Divert organic waste from landfills and capture more emissions from landfills. When organic waste (including food and yard scraps) decompose in landfills, methane is released; landfill emissions make up about 58% of New York’s methane emissions. To reduce emissions, the Department of Environmental Conservation and NYSERDA will develop and conduct outreach and programs to encourage large food waste generators (restaurants, hospitals, schools) to donate edible food and compost other food scraps. The 2017-2018 budget included Environmental Protection Fund funding for organic waste diversion programs, and NYSERDA can fund the development anaerobic digesters at farms, wastewater facilities, and food production facilities.  To reduce landfill emissions, the Department of Environmental Conservation can require methane collection systems at all landfills (including smaller landfills not subject to methane-capture requirements) and better educate and monitor both active and closed landfill managers.

Reduce agricultural emissions by helping farms implement known best practices and developing strategies for soil carbon sequestration.
Agricultural methane emissions make up about 22% of methane emissions and stem from manure management and animal digestion; opportunities to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions through soil carbon sequestration, organic waste diversion, and nitrogen management are promising. This year’s Environmental Protection Fund included a $50,000 grant for carbon sequestering farming practices, included as a result of Assembly Member Barrett’s bill to establish a carbon farming tax credit.

New York State plans to implement the actions recommended in the Plan by 2020. The plan is described as a “living document,” to be revised as our understanding of methane emissions improves.