By Thomas Catenacci
The Biden administration rolled out broad new regulations that it said will substantially reduce U.S. methane emissions within 15 years.
The sweeping regulations would cut methane emissions, which account for roughly 10% of the greenhouse gasses emitted by the U.S., by 41 million tons between 2023 and 2035, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Tuesday. Such a reduction is equivalent to 920 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, or the amount emitted by all cars and commercial aircraft in 2019.
“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,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.
“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,” he continued.
President Joe Biden and several top administration officials including Regan are attending COP26, the latest United Nations summit on climate change.
Tuesday’s announcement marks the first time EPA pollution standards would be applied to existing U.S. oil and gas wells. The agency said a key feature of the proposed rule would be a “comprehensive monitoring program for new and existing well sites.”
The regulations make good on Biden’s promise to promote the U.S. clean energy industry and “create good-paying jobs,” the White House said.
The Biden administration said the rules would be proposed under the Clean Air Act of 1970 (CAA), which authorizes the federal government to regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants. The Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to the CAA led by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey on Friday.
The comment period for the rule will take place for 60 days after the EPA publishes it.
“Methane pollution is a profound threat to our health and our climate. Cutting methane emissions from this industry is the fastest, most cost-effective way to slow global warming today,” said Fred Krupp, the president of the Environmental Defense Fund which advocates for green policies worldwide through legal action. “These rules are an important step that offers a major victory for nine million Americans living near active oil and gas sites.”
The proposed rule also received support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which has been criticized for its support of the fossil fuel industry. The leading business group opposed both Biden’s revocation of the Keystone XL pipeline and ban on new federal oil and gas leases.
“We applaud the work the Biden Administration has done to begin regulating methane emissions,” Christopher Guith, senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute, said in a statement. “Industry agrees that curbing methane emissions is crucial to combatting climate change and is investing in technologies that will achieve this goal.”
The American Petroleum Institute (API), a top fossil fuel industry group, said it would work with the EPA to ensure the regulation is “effective, feasible and designed to encourage further innovation,” signaling it would be open to supporting it.
“We support the direct regulation of methane from new and existing sources and are committed to building on the progress we have achieved in reducing methane emissions,” API Senior Vice President for Policy, Economics and Regulatory Affairs Frank Macchiarola said in a statement. “EPA has released a sweeping proposal, and we look forward to reviewing it in its entirety.”
100 Nations Agree To Non-Binding Pact To End Deforestation By 2030
The U.S., China and more than 100 other nations signed onto a pact to end deforestation by 2030 at the ongoing United Nations climate summit, the U.K. announced.
“Conserving our forests and other critical ecosystems is indispensable — an indispensable piece of keeping our climate goals within reach as well as many other key priorities that we have together: ensuring clean water, maintaining biodiversity, supporting rural and Indigenous communities, and reducing the risk of the spread of disease,” President Joe Biden remarked on Tuesday.
“Our forests are also nature’s carbon capture, cycling CO2 out of our atmosphere,” he added.
Overall, the signatories represent more than 85% of the world’s forests, the British government said earlier in the day. The nations will commit $12 billion to protect forests in addition to the $7.2 billion of private investment.
The deforestation and land degradation commitment came at COP26, the latest high-level United Nations climate change summit where leaders hope to hash out a series of climate agreements. Biden traveled to the conference with several top administration officials this week.
However, environmental groups and even the head of the UN warned that the pledge wasn’t binding and nations who signed on could easily renege on the outlined commitments.
“Signing the declaration is the easy part,” tweeted UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “It is essential that it is implemented now for people and planet.”
Alison Hoare, a researcher at the Chatham House think tank, noted that deforestation “has accelerated across many countries” since a similar pledge was made in 2014, showing the downfalls of a non-binding agreement, the Associated Press reported.
“It allows another decade of forest destruction and isn’t binding,” Greenpeace Brazil Executive Director Carolina Pasquali said in a statement. “Meanwhile the Amazon is already on the brink and can’t survive years more deforestation.”
Countries agreed to cut deforestation in half by 2020 as part of the 2014 pledge mentioned by Hoare, according to Greenpeace. But forest loss has actually increased over the last several years.
The U.S., meanwhile, launched the Forest Finance Risk Consortium (FFRC) and the Forest Investor Club, according to the Department of State. The FFRC will consist of experts who will assess whether investment portfolios are friendly to anti-deforestation efforts while the investor club will be a network of public and private financial institutions supporting “sustainable, climate-aligned outcomes in the land sector” through new capital.
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