By Jeff McMahon

Before Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the White House last month, the U.S. was on its way to adopting a regulation to control the emission of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from all new oil and gas operations.

Existing oil and gas operations would merely have been confronted with a set of voluntary guidelines.

This approach—adopting strict regulations for new polluters but exempting old—has been standard practice in the U.S. for decades, a practice that a leading expert on regulatory policy called “the standard mistake.”

“The standard mistake has been to come up with stringent new source standards and very permissive transition rules that allow existing actors to continue to operate without meeting those standards,” said Richard L. Revesz, a professor and dean emeritus at New York University School of Law and director of NYU’s Institute for Policy Integrity.

“We have not learned from our mistakes,” Revesz said in Chicago Thursday, “and always seem to be on the verge of repeating them.”

In the wake of Trudeau’s visit, the U.S. changed course. In a joint statement issued by the two nations March 10, Obama and Trudeau vowed to reduce methane emissions 40-45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025, and to do so by regulating, in no uncertain terms, existing oil and gas operations…

Areas of Focus: Energy Markets
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Energy Markets
Well-functioning markets are essential for providing access to reliable, affordable energy. EPIC research is uncovering the policies, prices and information needed to help energy markets work efficiently.
Fossil Fuels
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Fossil Fuels
Under current policies, fossil fuels will play an important role in the energy system for the foreseeable future. EPIC research is exploring the costs and benefits of these fuels as...
Environment
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Environment
Producing and using energy damages people’s health and the environment. EPIC research is quantifying the social costs of energy choices and uncovering policies that help protect health while facilitating growth.
Air Pollution
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Air Pollution
Air pollution from fossil fuel combustion poses a grave threat to human health worldwide. EPIC research is using real-world data to calculate the effects of air pollution on human health...