The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has unveiled a new plan for tackling greenhouse gas emissions caused by methane gas shortly after the U.S. announced it had joined a new global pact aimed at combating climate change. 

On Monday, EPA Administrator Michael Regan announced that the agency would be rolling out new requirements for the oil and gas industry to cut down on methane leaks. In a statement, Regan spoke to the urgency of the moment and described the EPA’s action as “historic.”

"As global leaders convene at this pivotal moment in Glasgow for COP26, it is now abundantly clear that America is back and leading by example in confronting the climate crisis with bold ambition,” said Regan. “With this historic action, EPA is addressing existing sources from the oil and natural gas industry nationwide, in addition to updating rules for new sources, to ensure robust and lasting cuts in pollution across the country." 

Methane is considered one of the most significant contributors to greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide (CO2) because of its higher heat-trapping potential. In comparison to CO2, methane breaks down much faster, which makes the global commitment to go after methane all the more urgent. 

Under the EPA’s proposals, the oil and gas sector would be required to increase its monitoring of methane leaks at their sites. Companies would have to monitor leaks quarterly, which could result in an estimated 86% of leaks being captured sooner, according to Reuters.

A zero emissions standard for new and existing pneumatic controllers, devices that monitor heat or pressure at energy sites, has been established, which the EPA says accounts for up to 30% of methane emissions.

The EPA hopes that these measures will help bring the amount of methane produced in the U.S. down to 2005 levels by the year 2035. These proposals are not expected to come into affect until 2023, giving companies time to adjust to them. 

These measures would contribute to President Joe Biden's push to cement the U.S. as a leader in the fight against climate change. At the COP26 United Nations summit in Glasgow, Scotland, Biden apologized for former President Donald Trump’s abandonment of the 2016 Paris Agreement to battle climate change and he reiterated his intent to deliver on promises to reduce emissions.

Biden pledged along with the leaders of 89 other nations to commit to bringing greenhouse gas methane down by 30% in 2030 from 2020 levels. This deal, however, does not include major emitters like China, Russia and India.  

Biden’s biggest challenge for meeting this goal comes from home, where Congressional Democrats remain deadlocked on delivering two multitrillion-dollar spending bills that include provisions on climate change. Several moderate Democrats have opposed certain climate elements in the bills, and a few have been sacrificed during the ongoing negotiations.