Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Senate to Reinstate Obama-Era Controls on Climate-Warming Methane

Senate Democrats, on Wednesday, will use a Law to Resurrect Obama-era Regulations on Methane that the Trump Administration had Wiped away. The Regulation seeks to Clamp Down on the Release of Methane, a Powerful, Climate-Warming Pollutant that will have to be Controlled to meet President Biden’s Ambitious Climate Change Promises.

Taking a page from Congressional Republicans, who in 2017, made Liberal use of a, Once-Obscure Law, to Roll-Back Obama-era Regulations, Democrats will Invoke the Law to turn back a Trump Methane Rule enacted late last summer. That Rule had Eliminated Obama-era Controls on Leaks of methane, which Seeps from Oil and Gas Wells.

The Vote will be the First time Congressional Democrats have used the Law, called the Congressional Review Act, which Prohibits Senate Filibusters and Ensures One Administration’s Last-Minute Regulations can be swiftly Overturned with a Simple Majority Vote in both Chambers of Congress.

That Original Rule, released in 2016, requiring Companies to Monitor, Plug, and Capture Leaks of Methane from New Drilling Sites.

“Once the president signs it, this will be the first move by Congress and this administration to actually put climate policy back on the books,” said Dan Grossman, Director of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs at the Environmental Defense Fund, an Advocacy Group.

The Bill to Reinstate the Obama Methane Rule has the Support of All 50 Democratic Senators and at least One Senator Susan Collins (R-ME).

The Vote is “a major, major, victory for those of us who want to deal with global warming, and in a very strong way,” Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Majority Leader, said on Tuesday.

“Last week, President Biden set an ambitious goal for the U.S. to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by the end of the decade,” Schumer continued. “This is the first of many steps, many important steps the Senate will take to achieve that goal.”

Both the Scientific Understanding of the Role that Methane plays in driving Climate Change and the Position of the Oil and Gas Industry have Shifted since Obama’s Administration First sought to Regulate Methane Pollution. Scientists now see the Gas as playing a Greater role in the Rapid Warming of the Planet than previously understood, while some Major Oil and Gas Companies that Fought Methane Regulations a Decade ago now say they welcome, or at least can Work with, the Return of the Methane Rules.

Most of Biden’s Proposed Climate Change policies are designed to Reduce Carbon Dioxide, which is Produced by Burning Fossil Fuels and is the most Abundant and Damaging Greenhouse Gas. Methane, which is a close second, is mainly emitted from Leaks in Oil and Gas Drilling sites. It lingers in the Atmosphere for a Shorter Period of time than Carbon Dioxide, but packs a Bigger Punch while it Lasts. By some estimates, Methane has 80 times the Heat-Trapping Power of Carbon Dioxide in its First 20 years in the Atmosphere.

A New UN Report, compiled by an International Team of Scientists and scheduled to be Published next month, is expected to Declare that Reducing Emissions of Methane, the Main Component of Natural Gas, will need to Play a far more Vital Role in Warding-Off the Worst Effects of Climate Change.

The Report also says that Unless there is Significant Deployment of Unproven Technologies capable of Pulling Greenhouse Gases out of the Air, Expanding the use of Natural Gas is Incompatible with keeping Global Warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, a Goal of the international Paris Agreement.

Many Major Oil and Gas Companies have come out in Support of Methane Regulations: Exxon, Shell, and BP, had actually urged the Trump Administration to Keep the Obama Methane Rules in place. Those Companies have invested Millions of dollars to Promote Natural Gas as a Cleaner Fuel than Coal in the Nation’s Power Plants, because Natural Gas produces about Half as much Carbon Dioxide when Burned. They fear that Unrestricted Leaks of Methane could Undermine that Marketing Message and hurt Demand.

On Wednesday, Vicki Hollub, the Chief Executive of Occidental Petroleum, an International Oil Company based in Houston, told a Senate Panel that she Supported the Vote to Reinstate the Methane Regulations. “We need to have regulation in place to ensure that we have adequate control throughout the industry,” she said.

Once the Obama Methane Rules are Reinstated, Biden plans to go further: While the Obama Rules require Companies to Monitor and Control Methane Leaks from New Drilling Wells, Biden has Directed his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Michael Regan, to prepare New Rules in the coming months that would also Require Companies to impose Controls on Methane Leaks from Existing Oil and Gas Drilling Sites.

That prospect raises Concerns for Small, Independent Oil Companies, which fear that New Rules requiring Companies to Install Methane-Leak Control Technology could be accommodated by Large Companies but could saddle Small Companies with Costs they cannot Afford. “Our issue is not with the need to manage emissions,” said Lee Fuller, Executive Vice President of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA). “The biggest impact of regulating existing sources will inevitably fall on low-production wells. That’s where the magnitude of the impact’s going to fall. So the question is, what is it going to look like?”

Mr. Fuller said his Group intended to Spend the coming months making the case to the Biden Administration that the Next Round of Methane Rules should offer Customized Policies that Differentiate between the Giant Oil Production Farms of Companies like Shell and Exxon, and the Small, Two-or-Three-Well Operations of Independent Wildcatters like his Members. “Our objective will be to try to make sure the regulatory process distinguishes between large and small wells with appropriate regulations for each,” he said.


In the 52-42 Vote, Three Republicans Voted with Democrats, to get Rid of the Rule: Sens. Rob Portman (OH), Lindsey Graham (SC) and Susan Collins (ME).

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

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