The Biden administration announced a new rule on Saturday, asserting its potential to combat climate change and enhance the U.S. economy, despite opposition, including from within President Joe Biden’s party. The rule specifically addresses methane emissions from U.S. oil and natural gas producers, identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a significant contributor to greenhouse gas-related warming.
According to the EPA, the final rule utilizes cost-effective technologies to prevent an estimated 58 million tons of methane emissions from 2024 to 2038, equivalent to 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. The statement emphasizes the rule’s crucial role in swiftly reducing methane emissions to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
In addition to targeting methane, the rule aims to decrease pollution from toxic byproducts of fossil fuel production and volatile organic compounds that contribute to smog, exacerbating respiratory issues such as asthma. The administration contends that low-income and predominantly minority communities are disproportionately affected by climate change, making this rule especially beneficial for them.
The new rule encompasses measures such as reducing or eliminating natural gas flaring in new oil wells, implementing more stringent standards for industry equipment, and introducing comprehensive monitoring requirements for oil and gas companies.
EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan stated, “On day one, President Biden restored America’s critical role as the global leader in confronting climate change, and today we’ve backed up that commitment with strong action, significantly slashing methane emissions and other air pollutants that endanger communities.”
However, not everyone supports the new rule, including Sen. Joe Manchin, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. In October, Manchin expressed concern that the administration was rushing regulatory changes without fully understanding their impact on the oil and gas industry, cautioning against potential threats to energy security, reliability, and consumer costs.
House Republicans also voiced apprehensions about the EPA’s regulatory actions, expressing uncertainties about the scope, timeline, and legal durability of the rule. They argued that the rule, amid supply chain disruptions and inflation, could lead to business closures and job losses within the energy sector.
While the federal government’s role in regulating methane emissions is acknowledged, critics like Manchin and House Republicans emphasize the importance of aligning regulations with economic realities to avoid adverse consequences for the nation’s energy and national security.