Federal Climate Change Update

January 18, 2024
Katherine L. Vaccaro, Esq.
MGKF Special Alert - 2024 Federal Forecast

The Biden Administration set lofty goals for addressing the impacts of climate change.  Now three years in, the Administration has made some progress.  In 2022, Biden enacted the Inflation Reduction Act, which allows the government to invest big in climate solutions and environmental justice efforts.  The Act is intended to accelerate a transition to clean energy, with a focus on reducing energy costs for low-income families across the country.  The Act also allocates funding to transition the transportation sector, the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., away from fossil fuels to zero-emitting vehicles.  $3 billion alone will go to electrifying the Postal Service’s fleet of mail trucks, for example.  The Act also directs significant resources to increasing awareness of air quality in environmental justice communities, including through both government- and community-led ambient air monitoring.  In fact, grants have already been awarded for a number of these projects in our region.  Just last month, $350 million Inflation Reduction Act dollars were committed to help 14 states (including Pennsylvania) reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, the largest contributor of methane emissions in the U.S.  The funding was announced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in partnership with the Department of Energy, on the heels of EPA’s release of its final regulation updating the methane performance standards for new oil and gas facilities and establishing Emission Guidelines for states to follow in developing methane standards for existing sources.

The Administration is separately generating funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support the resiliency of the country’s infrastructure to climate change, such as droughts, heat, floods, wildfires, and other threats.  Part of this effort involves creating a national network of clean hydrogen producers, consumers, and connective infrastructure with the objective of decarbonizing heavy industry and transportation.  In our region, funding was awarded for the Mid-Atlantic Clean Hydrogen Hub (MACH2), which spans the Delaware River and includes, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and southern New Jersey.  Among other results, the MACH2 project is expected to expand hydrogen distribution infrastructure and develop fueling stations to facilitate hydrogen distribution to more end users, while also yielding air pollution reduction benefits and brownfield remediation opportunities.

Finally with respect to climate change, EPA continued its efforts to update its greenhouse gas reporting rule (codified at 40 C.F.R. Part 98) during 2023, issuing two proposed rule revisions in May and August, respectively.  The proposed updates would affect many of the source categories under Part 98, including by adding five new source categories: Energy Consumption, Coke Calciners, Calcium Carbine Production, Caprolactam, Glyoxal, and Glyoxylic Acid Production, and Ceramics Production.  The proposed revisions are also intended to assist EPA in satisfying its obligation, as directed in the Inflation Reduction Act, to impose and collect a charge on methane emissions that exceed certain waste emissions thresholds applicable to petroleum and natural gas systems under 40 C.F.R. Part 98, Subpart W.  Most recently, EPA proposed that all of the revisions would become effective on January 1, 2025, covering the 2025 reporting year (with reports due March 31, 2026), with the exception of the proposed requirement to report quantities of fuel, which would also become effective on January 1, 2025, but would cover the 2024 reporting year (reports due March 31, 2025).