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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Two of Washington’s biggest lobbying groups say they support the Biden administration’s plan to regulate methane emissions from oil and gas wells.

Why it matters: The shift, instigated by the Chamber of Commerce and American Petroleum Institute, is one of the most concrete signs of how corporations are beginning to support action on climate change in the face of pressure from investors, politicians and the public.

Catch up quick: The organizations have for years opposed any direct regulation of methane, a greenhouse gas that’s the primary component of natural gas.

  • Methane makes up about 10% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, but its warming impact on the planet is more potent over a shorter period than carbon dioxide, the most common heat-trapping gas.
  • Methane, an invisible gas, leaks in the production and transportation processes of the fuel.
  • Investors have increasingly called on oil and gas producers to cut methane emissions, and President Biden has vowed to regulate them no matter what the industry thinks.

What they’re saying:

  • “We support the direct regulation of methane for new and existing sources in accordance with the Clean Air Act,” Mike Sommers, API’s president and CEO, told Axios Tuesday.
  • The Chamber of Commerce updated its website Wednesday to say it supports cutting methane emissions, including “by direct regulation under the Clean Air Act.”

But, but, but: The organizations are couching their support around an additional process within the Clean Air Act, America’s bedrock pollution law, that could add many months to writing a regulation. Environmental advocates dispute this position.

How it works: Frank Macchiarola, senior vice president at API, says that to comply with the law, Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency must go through a scientific process confirming that methane from oil and gas wells contributes to endangering the public’s health and welfare.

  • The Obama administration issued a broader scientific finding in 2009 concluding that all greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, did that.
  • Macchiarola says that finding applied to mobile sources, not stationary sources like oil and gas wells, and was in a different part of the law.
  • He says calling for this review isn’t tantamount to a delay and that such a finding is needed to stand up to legal scrutiny.

The other side: Peter Zalzal, an expert at the Environmental Defense Fund, says the EPA already made an additional scientific finding on this matter in 2016 as part of the Obama administration’s early work regulating methane.

  • “There’s broad agreement that methane significantly contributes to harmful climate pollution and EPA has already made this finding in 2016, so let’s get going,” Zalzal said.

Go deeper: In aggressive climate plan, Biden’s position on natural gas is fuzzy

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 28, 2021 - Energy & Environment

GM plans to end sales of gasoline powered cars by 2035

GM CEO Mary Barra at the GM Orion Assembly Plant plant for electric and self-driving vehicles in Michigan. Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

General Motors is setting a worldwide target to end sales of gasoline and diesel powered cars, pickups and SUVs by 2035, the automaker said Thursday.

Why it matters: GM's plan marks one of the auto industry's most aggressive steps to transform their portfolio to electric models that currently represent a tiny fraction of overall sales.

Lawmakers call for Israel-Hamas ceasefire amid aerial bombardments

Combination images of Republican Sen. Todd Young and Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy. Photo: Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images/Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and 28 Senate Democrats on Sunday called for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas as fighting continued into the night.

Driving the news: In the first bipartisan call for a ceasefire, Young, a ranking member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism, joined its Chair Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) a statement saying: "Israel has the right to defend itself from Hamas' rocket attacks, in a manner proportionate with the threat its citizens are facing.

Bill Gates faces scrutiny over relationship with Microsoft employee, Epstein ties

Photo: Alessandro Di Ciommo/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Representatives for Bill Gates pushed back on claims Sunday that he left Microsoft's board because of an earlier sexual relationship and against two other reports detailing more extensive ties with Jeffrey Epstein than had previously been reported.

Driving the news: Microsoft said in an emailed statement to Axios that it "received a concern" in 2019 that its co-founder "sought to initiate an intimate relationship with a company employee in the year 2000," but denied a Wall Street Journal report that its board members thought Gates should resign over the matter.