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As he’s sworn in as President, Joe Biden urged to get tough on oil and gas emissions

As President Joe Biden was sworn into office Wednesday, his inauguration signaled a dramatic shift in environmental policy and impacts to the oil and gas industry.

A group of congresspeople urged the incoming administration to enact tougher restrictions on air pollution created by oil and gas production.

The group of 23 Senate Democrats were led by Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico in penning a letter to Biden calling for the restoration of strict regulations on methane emissions from fossil fuel operations following multiple rollbacks of such regulations under former-President Donald Trump.

More: ‘Biden ban’ on federal oil and gas leasing could cost New Mexico, U.S. economies billions

The Trump administration sought throughout his term to rescind emissions rules at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management enacted Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama that required oil and gas operators to increase reporting of methane emissions and increases the use of gas-capturing technology.

Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency also sought to change its rules to no longer regulate methane from multiple sources in the oil and gas market chain.

In the letter, the senators argued the Trump administration’s reversal of Obama-era energy policy was a “disaster” for the environment and demanded Biden act.

More: New Mexico holds final sale of federal land to oil and gas under Trump administration

During his campaign, Biden vowed to halt new oil and gas leasing on federal land and made addressing climate change an environmental pollution a centerpiece of his campaign.

Vice President Kamala Harris also voiced similar support for tougher environmental regulations during her bid for the Democrat Party’s presidential nomination which Biden ultimately won.

The senators argued he must reenact Obama’s 2016 methane standards for the BLM while bringing forth new policy for even tougher regulations on oil and gas with respect to the environment.

More: Joe Biden’s election as President sparks concerns for New Mexico’s oil and gas industry

“The Trump administration’s recent rollbacks of previously existing standards have been a disaster for the climate, public health, and environmental justice, and are economically unnecessary, rejected by the very industry they purport to serve,” the senators wrote.

“To counter the harmful effects of these rollbacks and address the climate crisis, strengthened new source standards, and the extension of regulations to include existing sources, must be implemented as soon as possible.”

They argued stronger policies were needed to address climate change and prevent waste of natural gas as a viable natural resource, on public land.

More: New Mexico senate bill seeks to ban freshwater use by oil and gas, penalize spills

“Taking swift action to reinstate and strengthen responsible methane regulations on the oil and gas industry, along with measures to reduce waste on our nation’s public lands, would be a powerful early step in your administration’s work to meet the threat of climate change,” the letter read.

“We look forward to addressing the climate crisis alongside the Biden-Harris administration and urge you to make strengthened methane rules for oil and gas production an early priority.”

Methane, a greenhouse gas with 84 times the global warming impact of carbon dioxide is a common product of natural gas and oil extraction. The industry is the largest emitter of methane, the senators argued, and recent data showed increases in such emissions in recent years.

More: Lawmakers ready to debate funding for oil and gas oversight in 2021 Legislative Session

Last year, the Trump administration completed rolling back key provisions of the EPA’s New Source Performance Standards, reducing the agency’s ability to regulate methane and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from extraction operations.

“To counter the harmful effects of these rollbacks and address the climate crisis, strengthened new source standards, and the extension of regulations to include existing sources, must be implemented as soon as possible,” the letter read.

“With the climate crisis accelerating, it is the wrong time to let oil and gas producers off the hook for methane emissions.”

More: Oil and gas market collapse plagued southeast New Mexico’s economy in late 2020

Immediately upon being sworn into the office of the Presidency, Biden announced a series of executive actions that included orders intended to strengthen the U.S.’ efforts to address pollution and climate change including regulations on oil and gas.

The order called on the Department of the Interior to review boundaries and conditions of the grand Staircase-Escalante, Bears Ears, Northeast Canyon and Seamounts Marine National Monuments, federal land The Trump administration sought to open up to oil and gas drilling, while placing a temporary moratorium on oil and gas activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Biden also revoked Trump’s presidential permit granted to the Keystone XL pipeline, a controversial crude oil line that would run from Canada through the northwest United States into Texas, and rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement via the order.

More: New Mexico senate bill seeks to ban freshwater use by oil and gas, penalize spills

Under the order, federal agencies would be required to review any Presidential actions during Trump’s four-year term that could be considered harmful to the public and environment.

The Trump-led BLM held its final oil and gas lease sale in New Mexico last week, and environmentalists also called on Biden to reform public land leasing, increasing minimum bids and royalty rates and enacting policy with a stronger emphasis on climate and environmental concerns.

“The Biden administration could finally reform this broken system that prioritizes corporate profit over our public lands, wildlife habitat, and New Mexico’s outdoor heritage,” said Jesse Deubel, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. “I hope President-elect Biden takes this chance to work with Congress to institute common sense reforms as soon as possible.”

More: New Mexico State Land Office recovers $2.3 million in audit of oil and gas royalties

A December report from Rystad Energy expected Biden to enact stronger environmental regulations to appease part of his base and meet promises made on the campaign trail.

Analysts said they also predicted a ban on new hydraulic fracturing could be enacted under the Biden administration, but that such moratoriums would be unlikely to impact short-term fuel supplies as most producers in the Permian Basin of southeast New Mexico already hold leases on public and private land to do so.

“The seasoned politician will have to strike a fine balance between the aspirations of young voters seeking stringent measures on issues such as emissions and a fracking ban, with a sector that has helped propel the US to the league of top global producers in less than a decade, and was a key driver of jobs growth,” the report read.

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, achedden@currentargus.com or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Carlsbad Current-Argus: As he’s sworn in as President, Joe Biden urged to get tough on oil and gas emissions

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