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Flames from a flaring pit near a well in the Bakken Oil Field in North Dakota. Photo: Orjan F. Ellingvag/Corbis via Getty Images

ExxonMobil Corp., the world’s biggest publicly traded oil company, is calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate emissions of methane from all new and existing oil and gas wells across the country, according to a letter obtained by Axios.

The big picture: Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is the primary component of natural gas and is sometimes purposefully or inadvertently leaked in the production and transport of the fuel, as well as when drilling for oil. The EPA has been slow in its approach toward rolling back Obama-era methane rules, in part due to industry divisions.

Details: Through its subsidiary XTO Energy, Exxon is one of America’s biggest producers of natural gas. It has two reasons to back such a regulation.

  1. Exxon is facing pressure from investors and lawsuits over climate change. By calling for regulations, it’s an attempt to show Exxon wants gas to be as clean as possible, even if those regulations never happen. “We believe the correct mix of policies and reasonable regulations help reduce emissions, further supporting the benefits of natural gas in the energy mix,” writes Gantt Walton, vice president in Exxon’s Washington office, in the letter sent as part of the regulatory process.
  2. As a massive global company, Exxon is positioned to benefit financially over smaller companies. It can easily afford pollution-control equipment that others have a harder time obtaining.

Between the lines: This is a subtle escalation in Exxon’s positioning on this issue. The company has previously said it backs federal methane regulations, but — until now —had not gone as far as to ask the EPA to do so in writing.

  • It’s also significant that Exxon is asking the agency to regulate methane emissions from existing wells, which would affect hundreds of thousands of wells. Under Trump, the EPA is very unlikely to do this. President Obama’s EPA had started the initial groundwork for such a rule, but didn’t get far before Trump took over.

What’s next: This letter is in response to a technical rollback EPA is undertaking. The agency is expected to propose a broader rollback of the rules soon.

Go deeper

8 mins ago - Health

WHO authorizes China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

A medical worker administering a coronavirus vaccine in Nanjing, China, on May 7, 2021. Photo: Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The World Health Organization authorized China’s Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use on Friday, making it the sixth vaccine to receive clearance from the global health agency.

Why it matters: The authorization will allow COVAX, the WHO's initiative to equitably develop and distribute coronavirus vaccines, to purchase Sinopharm's vaccine and bolster its supply, according to the New York Times.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases hit a seven-month low — Majority back vaccine proof requirements for travel, schools and work — The race to avoid a possible "monster" COVID variant.
  2. Politics: Why Biden's latest vaccine goal is his hardest yet.
  3. Vaccines: Pfizer begins application for full FDA approval of COVID-19 vaccine — Moderna says its COVID booster shot shows promise against variants.
  4. Economy: U.S. adds just 266,000 jobs in April, far below expectations — Americans' return to the skies could benefit smaller airlines.
  5. World: Amazon postpones Prime Day sales in India and Canada over coronavirus surge — Mixed response in Europe to Biden's vaccine patents bombshell — True COVID-19 death toll is double the official numbers, study finds.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Derek Chauvin, 3 former officers indicted on federal civil rights charges

Photo: Stephen Maturen via Getty Images

A federal grand jury Friday has indicted Derek Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis officers for civil rights violations related to the death of George Floyd.

Why it matters: The new charges mean the officers could face another high-profile criminal trial following a yearlong racial reckoning across the nation.