ClimateWire's Chemnick talks next steps on U.S.-Canada methane agreement

How will this week's climate announcement between the United States and Canada affect the global momentum on cutting greenhouse gas emissions? On today's The Cutting Edge, ClimateWire reporter Jean Chemnick discusses the next steps for the United States as U.S. EPA runs up against a tight timeline to move regulations to limit methane emissions from existing oil and gas operations.


Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to The Cutting Edge. How will this week's U.S.-Canada climate announcement impact the global momentum on reducing greenhouse gas emissions? ClimateWire's Jean Chemnick joins me. Jean, what were the most significant elements coming out of yesterday's announcement?

Jean Chemnick: Well, three of them were the fact that both countries are going to move forward on oil and gas methane, including existing oil and gas operations. Last year, EPA said that it would stop at new and modified oil and gas operations, so this is more than that. Then also there was a substantial Arctic component, including the idea of incorporating science and climate science into decisions about oil and gas development going forward in the Arctic in both countries. And then finally, the fact that both countries will put out their long-term decarbonization plans in the next year, which will mean that this White House, Obama's White House, writes that plan for 2050.

Monica Trauzzi: Without comprehensive policies to tackle climate change in either country, though, how strong is this agreement? I mean, of course here in the U.S., we have the Clean Power Plan, but that's been stayed. The Canadians are working on a plan, but there's nothing in place.

Jean Chemnick: Well, I mean, this does get at other items that are sort of not part of either agenda. I mean, the methane rules are part of Obama's Climate Action Plan, but they're kind of more than that and other things are cooperation between the two countries. They're things that probably will support the comprehensive plans in both countries, but that are not getting at the heart of those reductions.

Monica Trauzzi: EPA has indicated it will initiate the rulemaking process on the methane emissions rule next month. How challenging is the timeline given the amount of time the president has left in office?

Jean Chemnick: Well, what they said yesterday was that next month they were going to start collecting information from companies to inform a future rulemaking. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was very cagy about sort of what the timeline would be for that rulemaking. You know, she wouldn't even say necessarily that they would propose a rule, and of course it needs to be proposed and then finalized, and they only have nine-plus months in which to do it if they're going to do it under this administration. So that makes it very doubtful that they will create the rulemaking before Obama leaves office.

Monica Trauzzi: Senate EPW Chair Inhofe responded to the announcement saying the administration is grasping at straws as the president's Paris climate promise continues to fail and fall apart. How are folks on and off the Hill reacting to the announcement yesterday, and is there some truth to what Inhofe said, that the Paris pledge is somewhat vulnerable?

Jean Chemnick: Well, I mean, the news yesterday was this methane rule, the fact that EPA was sort of going to reverse course and start work on existing oil and gas development, which is a much wider scope of rule than they were talking about last year. And that was extremely upsetting to Republicans on the Hill, even some that are fairly moderate on these issues, because they say that the industry is already curbing its methane and it kind of highlights the fact that if this rule is not complete by the time Obama leaves office, which is likely, that it would not move forward under a Republican president. So that part of the plan is probably very vulnerable to a change in administration, but more broadly, of course a Republican could also walk back our involvement in the Paris climate deal, though Obama yesterday said again that that would damage U.S. credibility internationally because this is a big important agreement that was reached by 195 parties and it's something that's an important hallmark of what the U.S. has agreed to recently.

Monica Trauzzi: Lots of moving parts.

Jean Chemnick: Yes.

Monica Trauzzi: Thanks, Jean. Love your reporting as always.

Jean Chemnick: Thank you.

Monica Trauzzi: More Cutting Edge coming next Friday. We'll see you then.

[End of Audio]



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