January 21, 2021

Biden’s first day: Trump’s methane rule and U.S. rejoins Paris Agreement

Flare Off & Pumpjack (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by blake.thornberry

Permian Basin Oil Field in Eddy County

President Joe Biden wasted no time in starting to tackle some of the country’s most pressing climate change issues after being inaugurated on Jan. 20. One of Biden’s first acts as president was to rejoin the U.S. to the Paris Agreement, a 2015 non-binding pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions necessary to keep the planet’s warming to below 2 degrees Celsius. 

Nearly every country in the world has made the pledge to act on climate change, but Former President Donald Trump announced plans to remove the U.S. from the accord in 2017. The country was not officially able to exit the agreement until Nov. 4, 2020, one day after the presidential election. Two months later, the U.S. has rejoined. 

Environmental groups across the country lauded the move, as did the state’s Climate Change Task Force, which is co-chaired by the New Mexico Environment Department Secretary James Kenney and the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department Secretary Sarah Cottrell Propst.

“Today marks a new day for climate action in our country,” Cottrell Propst said in a statement. “By rejoining the Paris Agreement, the United States will once again lead in the fight to address climate change. Leadership on the federal level will support states like New Mexico that have remained committed to the goals laid out in the Paris Agreement and give us a firm foundation [to] mitigate the worst impacts of climate change.”

Biden also sought to reverse a group of environment-focused regulatory rollbacks that occurred under the Trump administration, including what even fossil fuel companies consider weakened methane regulations.

Environmental groups are pressing the new administration to take strict regulatory stances on greenhouse gas emissions including methane. 

“The increasing severity of the climate crisis demands bold and immediate action in the coming weeks and months, including utilizing the Clean Air Act to the fullest extent of the law to cut oil and gas methane pollution 65% by 2025,” said Earthworks Policy Director Lauren Pagel. 

RELATED: While state grapples with new methane rules, EPA wants to end some methane emissions limits all together

Biden also revoked authorization of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline. The project, proposed by Canada-based TC Energy, formerly TransCanada, and the government of Alberta, Canada, would carry oil from Alberta to refineries in Texas and Illinois and to a distribution center in Oklahoma. 

The project drew vehement opposition from environmental groups. U.S. Former President Barack Obama first blocked and then vetoed approvals for the pipeline during his administration, but Trump offered a “presidential permit” in 2019 that authorized the project. 

“The rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline must be only the beginning,” Pagel said. “The Biden-Harris administration must stop the continued expansion of oil and gas facilities that sacrifice frontline communities and, too often, disproportionately impact historically marginalized people.”