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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.

Updated 26 mins ago - Health

The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Omicron's blitz around the world has underscored the need for a new arsenal of COVID vaccines and therapeutics, experts say — and that may require an effort akin to Operation Warp Speed 2.0.

Why it matters: The virus will continue to evolve, potentially in a way that further escapes vaccine protection, and the best way to prevent more global disruptions to everyday life is to have tools ready to combat whatever comes next.

Ina Fried, author of Login
52 mins ago - Technology
Column / Signal Boost

Microsoft's metaverse maneuvering

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Microsoft is pitching investors and regulators that its $68 billion Activision Blizzard deal is all about the metaverse, that nebulous buzzword taking the tech world by storm.

What they're saying: By my colleague Stephen Totilo's count, Nadella used the word "metaverse" at least five times in his conference call discussing the deal. Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick mentioned the metaverse four times, while Microsoft gaming chief Phil Spencer used the term twice.