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Democrats scramble to salvage climate provisions in the face of Manchin’s opposition

The Climate 202


Good morning and thanks for reading The Climate 202! It’s a busy week for climate policy in Washington. Here's what we're watching:

Democrats are working to salvage a methane fee in the face of Manchin’s opposition

Democrats are scrambling to address centrist Sen. Joe Manchin III’s (D-W.Va.) objections to a methane fee in budget negotiations, people close to the talks told The Climate 202, even as they expressed confidence they’ve assembled a broad climate package in the bill. 

Senate Democrats met Monday afternoon after Manchin pushed to drop or modify the methane fee in their social spending bill, which would impose a fee on emissions of the potent planet-warming gas that can leak from oil and gas wells, according to two people familiar with the matter.

White House officials convened a separate meeting Monday with leading environmental groups, where they projected optimism about brokering a deal on climate before a crucial United Nations climate summit in Scotland, according to two participants in the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.

The details: Reuters first reported Monday that the methane fee was on thin ice. Two people familiar with the matter confirmed to The Climate 202 that Manchin had objected to the methane fee, but they stressed that the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over the fee, was working to find a compromise.

  • A potential compromise would involve providing $700 million in funding that would be rebated to oil and gas producers to help them comply with the fee, according to one of the people.
  • A Senate Democratic aide confirmed that hundreds of millions of dollars would be given back to the industry for compliance in the form of rebates, grants or other financial assistance.

Manchin already succeeded in convincing Democrats to abandon a central climate provision, dubbed the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP), which would have rewarded utilities for deploying more clean energy.

But Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, told reporters Monday that negotiations with Manchin over the methane fee were ongoing. 

“We tried to do it in a way that Senator Manchin and his folks will be more receptive of it. And we’re still talking,” Carper said.

EPA's forthcoming methane standards

One of Manchin’s concerns is that the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to unveil new methane standards for oil and gas infrastructure later this week, and the fee could be duplicative of the regulation, one of the people said. The American Petroleum Institute (API) has expressed similar concerns.

“The direct regulation of methane by the EPA is the most impactful way to build on the downward trend of methane emission rates in key producing regions rather than a duplicative and punitive natural gas tax that would only hurt American consumers and undermine the economic recovery,” Frank Macchiarola, senior vice president of policy, economics and regulatory affairs at API, said in a statement to The Climate 202.

But Anand Gopal, executive director of strategy and policy at Energy Innovation, a San Francisco-based think tank, told The Climate 202 that the methane fee would be “complementary” of the EPA rules, which could be overturned by a future administration. A recent analysis from Energy Innovation found that the methane fee would be responsible for 65 percent of the spending bill’s total industrial emissions reductions.

A spokeswoman for Manchin didn’t respond to a request for comment.

White House officials meet with environmental groups to hash out climate deal

Back at the meeting with environmental groups Monday, top White House officials projected optimism that they could secure the contours of a deal on climate before COP26 next week, according to the two participants.

  • Officials said the Biden administration was working to broker a deal on refundable tax credits that consumers can use to help retrofit buildings, electrify their homes and install rooftop solar panels, the participants said.
  • Officials also said the $150 billion that was originally allocated to the CEPP would probably go toward grants and loans to help the industrial sector reduce emissions.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris stopped by and touted investments in climate resilience, according to the participants and a White House readout.
  • Other officials in attendance included White House Climate Coordinator Gina McCarthy and her deputy Ali Zaidi; National Economic Council Director Brian Deese; and Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory.

“It was incredibly encouraging to hear the top officials so supportive of the investments that are going to reduce emissions, save consumers money and create American manufacturing jobs,” Collin O’Mara, chief executive of the National Wildlife Federation, told The Climate 202 after the meeting.

While officials were optimistic about the climate provisions in the bill, they were still unsure whether they could win the support of Manchin and fellow centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) for the overall package, another participant said.

“They just can’t get the handshake,” that person said.

Talks continue over climate provisions before COP26

At their own closed-door meeting Monday, the chairs of Senate committees worked to hammer out a final agreement on the climate provisions before President Biden travels to Glasgow for the U.N. climate summit.

“We want the president to go to Glasgow with a strong position in terms of major climate change [provisions],” Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told reporters after the meeting.

Wyden added that he is continuing to speak with House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) about resolving differences in their approaches to clean energy tax credits.

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) told reporters that he would accept any climate provisions in the bill, provided that they led to significant emissions reductions.

“I literally am as flexible as can be, as long as it gets the emissions reductions,” Schatz said. “Think of me as a very hungry person and anything that has calories, I will take.”

Countdown to COP26

The world remains on a catastrophic trajectory ahead of the U.N. climate summit

The world is on track to see a temperature rise of 2.7 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, according to a United Nations report that looked at the climate commitments of 192 member nations under the 2015 Paris agreement.

That’s well above the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal that scientists say could avoid some of the most dangerous effects of climate change, The Post’s William Booth and Amanda Coletta write

A separate report released Monday found that wealthy nations won’t meet their target of providing $100 billion annually to help developing nations adapt to climate change until 2023 — three years behind schedule. Many experts say that level of funding is already insufficient, and it’s poised to be a sticking point at the climate summit in Glasgow.

U.N. chief calls effort to halt climate change ‘the most important political battle of my life’

The Post’s Brady Dennis sat down with U.N. Secretary General António Guterres at the U.N. headquarters in New York to discuss what’s at stake at the upcoming climate summit.

Guterres has been tirelessly urging countries to adopt more ambitious climate commitments, emerging as “the globe’s exhorter-in-chief for bolder climate action” and a “megaphone for scientists” who warn of costly disasters if the world fails to act, Dennis writes. 

But Guterres realizes his power is limited. “There are many illusions about what the secretary general of the United Nations can do,” he told The Post. 

“We, as the U.N., need to be able to provide leadership,” he continued. “Unfortunately, in the world, power and leadership are not always aligned. Sometimes there is leadership where there is no power, and there is power where there is no leadership. And I think there is a strong risk that might happen in relation to climate change.”

For Guterres, the urgency to address climate change is deeply personal.

“[W]hen I look at my granddaughters, who will very probably [live] to the end of the century, I wouldn’t like them to come to say that the planet is hell, and that I have not done enough to avoid it,” Guterres said.

Pressure points

Biden aides disagree over approach to China on climate

Strained relations with China over human rights, trade and a range of other issues are hampering cooperation on climate change and spurring disagreements among Biden’s top aides, The Post’s John Hudson and Ellen Nakashima report.

John F. Kerry, special presidential envoy for climate, has pushed for direct diplomacy between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, warning that if relations with Beijing don’t improve, the world will fail in its efforts to stave off the worst effects of climate change.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan, however, has expressed skepticism that the U.S. alone can pressure China to reduce its emissions and has ruled out accommodating China on other issues to secure climate commitments. 

Methane leaks in Boston are six times higher than previously thought

A study measuring natural gas emissions in the Boston area found the rate of methane leaks to be six times higher than previous estimates. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, estimated that an average of 49,000 tons of methane leaked into the air each year between 2012 and 2020, potentially from inside homes and businesses, The Post’s Tik Root reports.


The otter population in Singapore is back, The Post’s Marina Lopes reports. We enjoyed watching a family of otters frolic in a residential pool.

An otter family invaded an apartment complex in Singapore to cool off in the pool on April 6. (Video: Newflare)

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