Last month, this column was critical of the “temporary pause” issued by the Biden administration on pending decisions regarding exports of LNG to non-free trade agreement countries. The announcement stated the administrative action on LNG would cease “until the Department of Energy can update the underlying analyses for authorizations,” primarily the environmental and climate change impact from LNG exports. This action has caused a great deal of consternation from the energy industry and governments around the world that depend on U.S. LNG.

Shortly after the pause was issued, a group of seven Democratic senators, led by Ed Markey (D-Mass.), sent a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that accused certified, responsibly sourced or differentiated natural gas providers of “greenwashing” and “false burnishing (of) their climate credentials.” The letter went on to ask the SEC to investigate and address false or misleading claims of natural gas certifiers, and to update their own guidance to address claims about certified gas.

The highly inflammatory and accusatory letter was a direct shot at the concept of natural gas certification, an ongoing voluntary effort by industry to reduce emissions, increase efficiency and ensure that best practices are being applied to U.S. natural gas production and transport. One certification standard alone, the MiQ standard, has already been applied to more than 20% of U.S. natural gas production, providing a substantial positive impact on the environmental performance of U.S. natural gas.

Recognition gained through gas certification verified by third-party auditors has led natural gas producers and midstream companies to voluntarily comply and often exceed compliance with regulatory requirements, including the EPA methane rule.

EQT, the largest natural gas producer in the U.S., has voluntarily committed to certify its gas to demonstrate its commitment to reducing emissions and enhancing its sustainability performance. The majority of its gas production is now certified and audited under both the MiQ standard and the Equitable Origin EO100 Standard for Responsible Energy Development. EQT certification alone accounts for 4.5% of all U.S. gas production. As part of its commitment, EQT spent $28 million to replace or retrofit 100% of its gas-powered pneumatic devices used in oil and gas production, resulting in a 70% reduction in methane emissions. Chesapeake Energy has certified 100% of its natural gas assets that support the production of about 6 bcf/d using the MiQ Standard, the Equitable Origin EO100 standard and Project Canary.

Gas certification is clearly moving the needle in terms of reducing methane emissions and making overall production compliant with the EPA Methane Rule years ahead of the compliance deadline. If there was ever a doubt that the U.S. has the cleanest gas in the world, certification is erasing it.

Importantly, certification is making U.S. natural gas more marketable in the world. Prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Europe was balking at imports of U.S. shale gas, which it deemed as dirty due to hydraulic fracturing. With Russian gas supplies largely cut off from Europe, the U.S. has been exporting LNG to Europe in record numbers. Even under the pressure of a cut-off of Russian supply, the European Union enacted a law last year that places limits on emissions from imported gas beginning 2030. However, natural gas certification brings U.S. natural gas into compliance with those EU standards, years before they are mandatory.

Perhaps the greatest opportunity for U.S. natural gas to make a difference in coal displacement and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction is in Asia. While Europe and North America are reducing their GHG emissions, countries in Asia including Pakistan, India and China are doing just the opposite. These countries are building new coal power plants and increasing global GHG emissions. China alone is currently constructing 176 gigawatts of new coal capacity, two times the coal capacity the U.S. has retired since 2005, or one coal-fired power plant per week.

U.S. oil and gas producers want to improve their emissions performance. They want to deliver a clean and reliable product to our allies in Europe. They see the opportunity that U.S. LNG can play in displacing coal and reducing GHG emissions in Asia. Certification is a process that can and does create certainty and transparency that guarantees performance and continued improvement. Our government should not attack natural gas certification.  It should embrace it.