Green groups demand US end talks on natural gas certification

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A group of nearly 150 environmental justice groups urged the Biden administration on Wednesday to abandon talks with global energy companies on standards for “certified” natural gas, a form of the fuel that producers market as climate friendly, but critics say undermines the transition from fossil fuels.

The United States has held talks with energy companies and foreign officials on gas certification as it ships large amounts of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, to Europe to displace Russian gas amid the war in Ukraine.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Gas Leaks and other green groups argued the discussions are a diversion from President Joe Biden’s pledge to move toward cleaner energy sources.

“While we strongly support robust and well-enforced regulations to cut methane leaks from the oil and gas sector, we oppose efforts that aim to provide ‘extra credit’ which the gas industry uses to promote growth in the production, trade and consumption of methane gas,” they wrote in a letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

But Tom Hassenboehler, a lobbyist who helped form the Differentiated Gas Coordinating Council industry group, said certified gas backers adopt practices to lower emissions throughout the gas supply chain.

“These practices should be encouraged not discouraged as efforts and momentum grow to drive down methane pollution,” Hassenboehler said on Thursday.


A Department of Energy spokesperson said the agency “is not introducing or endorsing any natural gas certification measures or standards.” It is working with gas importing and exporting countries to develop an approach to measurement, monitoring, reporting and verification of emissions that “provides consistency and accountability,” and aligns with the administration’s plan on methane emissions, the spokesperson added.

While gas burns cleaner than other fossil fuels, its main component is the powerful greenhouse gas methane, which can leak into the atmosphere – a top complaint from environmentalists, whose support is key as Biden ramps up his 2024 re-election campaign.

Gas producers have attempted to market certified gas at a premium for years, using third-party certifiers to prove the fuel was produced and transported in ways that minimize emissions.

But a lack of unified standards on measuring and verifying emissions across the supply chain has limited low-carbon gas markets. Certifiers rely on competing measurement technologies and differing methodologies on interpreting the data.

Brad Crabtree, a Department of Energy official, met privately with companies on the issue in March and told Reuters standards are needed because the “downside of all the innovation and creativity is that it also is very chaotic.”

Scientists have long warned that climate change, caused by greenhouse gas emissions mainly from burning fossil fuels, will make heat waves more frequent, severe and deadly. They say governments need to drastically reduce emissions to prevent climate catastrophe.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Aurora Ellis and David Holmes)