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A gas flare is seen at a natural gas processing facility near Williston, N.D. Photo: Matthew Brown / AP

The American Petroleum Institute is announcing today a new voluntary program to cut emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and other air pollution from oil and natural gas wells.

Why it matters: This is the first time in API's nearly 100-year history that it has launched a program to cut air pollution. It's also the most concrete sign climate change is becoming a significant mainstream concern within the disparate oil and gas industry. Moves like this by trade groups represent the lowest, not highest, common denominator for positions within any given sector.

Between the lines: Don't expect climate change per se to be a big part of the Tuesday rollout or its website. The talking points are centered broadly on "the environment." Such rhetoric is in line with most Republicans and the Trump administration when it comes to climate change.

Fast facts: Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is the primary component of natural gas. It can be leaked, either purposefully or inadvertently, during the production and transmission of natural gas. It has a warming impact far greater than carbon dioxide, though it stays in the atmosphere for less time. Oil and natural gas companies are the top industrial source of methane emissions in the U.S. The agricultural sector, including manure management and enteric fermentation (i.e., cow farts), is the largest overall by a slim margin, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's latest data.

Topline details:

  • Nearly all of its member companies that have onshore operations have signed on, with 27 in total as of Tuesday (full list at bottom).
  • It will be implemented on January 1, 2018.
  • It's called Environmental Partnership, and while its first focus is methane emissions and related pollutants called volatile organic compounds, it could be expanded into other environmental issues, said Erik Milito, director of upstream and industry operations at API.
  • There isn't any formal penalty for not complying with the program, though Milito said one idea would be to take names off the new website launching Tuesday.
  • The program doesn't include any overarching reduction goal, though it does encourage companies to annually report how they're doing in terms of implementing the program.

The program includes three parts companies are expected to implement:

  1. Monitoring and fixing emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds.
  2. Replacing and upgrading equipment called pneumatic controllers that are used at oil and natural-gas operations and often emit methane and other types of emissions.
  3. Minimizing emissions associated with separating liquids, such as oil, from natural gas.

Companies participating:

Anadarko, Devon Energy, Occidental Petroleum, Apache, Encana, Pioneer Natural Resources, BHP, EOG Resources, Shell, BP, Exxon Mobil subsidiary XTO Energy, Southwestern Energy, Chesapeake Energy, Marathon Oil, Statoil, Chevron, Murphy Oil, TOTAL, Cimarex Energy, Newfield, Western Gas Partners, ConocoPhillips, Noble Energy, CrownQuest, Cabot Oil and Gas and Hess Corporation.

Go deeper

Updated 4 mins ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Updated 30 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden calls Fox News reporter a "stupid son of a b---h" on hot mic

President Biden blasted Fox News' Peter Doocy on Monday after the reporter asked if the nation's soaring inflation is a political liability, saying, "what a stupid son of a b----h."

The latest: The president called Doocy Monday evening, the reporter told Fox's Sean Hannity. "He cleared the air and I appreciated it. We had a nice call," Doocy said when asked whether the president apologized, adding: "I don't need anyone to apologize to me."

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February.
  2. Vaccines: The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: New York Supreme Court strikes down Gov. Hochul's mask mandate for public areas — Sarah Palin tests positive for COVID, delaying defamation trial — Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker