Thursday, April 29, 2021

Senate votes to revert methane rules to Obama era; research says cutting its emissions could slow warming

The Senate voted 52-42 Wednesday voted to restore regulation of methane emissions, rolling back a Trump administration rule. "The bill would reinstate the 2012 and 2016 Oil and Natural Gas New Source Performance Standards set by the Obama administration," Valerie Volcovici reports for Reuters. Oil companies such as BP and Shell have signaled support for the measure, which now goes to the House. It passed the Senate under "a 1996 law that allows Congress to reverse federal rules implemented in the last days of a past administration with a simple majority," Volcovici notes.

Along with Senate Democrats and independents, three Republicans voted for the measure: Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Rob Portman of Ohio. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the measure would help the Biden administration reach its goal of halving U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions over the next decade, Volcovici reports. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan "said in a recent interview that new methane rules, due by September, would likely exceed the goals of Obama-era regulations and play a significant role in helping the United States achieve its near-term climate goals."

The vote "comes ahead of the release of a major United Nations report next week that will call for deep cuts in methane emissions to slow the rate of global warming and keep it beneath a threshold agreed by world leaders," Volcovici reports.

Moving quickly to cut methane emissions could slow global warming by as much as 30 percent, according to research recently published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. According to the study, "a full-scale push using existing technologies could cut methane emissions in half by 2030. Such reductions could have a crucial impact in the global effort to limit warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to preindustrial levels — a central aim of the Paris climate accord," Brady Dennis and Steven Mufson report for The Washington Post. "In human terms, that could translate into fending off the most severe sea level rise, preventing more profound damage to animal habitats and ecosystems, and delaying other extreme climate impacts."

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