The federal government needs to impose mandatory restrictions on the natural gas industry in order to curb methane emissions that threaten to undermine climate protection efforts, according to a recent blog post by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

EDF recently said the natural gas industry needs mandatory methane emissions limits to reduce this “potent pollutant.” A voluntary program that President Obama has proposed is unlikely to do the job. “Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with more than 84 times the warming power of carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after it is released unburned,” EDF wrote. “It also represents a threat to public health, and a waste of a valuable energy resource – enough natural gas is wasted through methane leaks each year to fuel nearly 6 million homes.”

It is unrealistic to expect significant reductions to come from a voluntary program, EDF wrote. “One of the biggest indicators? The fact that the very program EPA is proposing to advance these voluntary measures – Natural Gas STAR – has been around since 1993, but of the more than 6,000 producers in operation, fewer than 30 are participants.”

The natural gas industry claims that producers can be trusted to voluntarily take the steps needed to reduce methane emissions, and that regulation is not needed, but Natural Gas Star’s sub 1 percent participation rate proves otherwise, EDF wrote.

This summer, the Obama administration is expected to set, for the first time, methane emission limits from new and modified sources in the natural gas industry, and is being called upon to implement rules to address leaks from existing sources as well, according to EDF. Producers and consumers will have to absorb the cost of reducing methane emissions.

“It is critical that any voluntary program EPA proposes is rigorous and transparent. But it is even more critical that the EPA includes strong regulations, in addition to voluntary programs, when it proposes its rules later this summer,” EDF wrote. “Doing so is necessary to begin meeting the White House’s methane reduction goal and protecting public health, preventing waste, and slowing global warming. While the Enhanced Natural Gas STAR preview is one small piece of the puzzle, EPA must work to get the regulatory centerpiece of the package right as well.”

 To read the Environmental Defense Fund blog post, click here.