West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin III has urged Democrats to drop or weaken a second key climate change provision from the sweeping social policy and environmental spending bill the White House hopes to finalize this week, according to two people familiar with the case.
Mr Manchin, a centrist Democrat from one of the country’s major coal and gas-producing states, wants to remove or amend a provision that would impose a fee on emissions of methane, a potent planet-warming pollutant leaking from oil and gas wells . He has already effectively managed to bill the most powerful climate change utility, a program that would have quickly shut down coal and gas-fired power plants and replaced them with wind and solar power.
Democrats are rushing to finalize the details of the massive budget bill this week. President Biden will attend a major climate summit this weekend in Glasgow, Scotland, where he hopes to point to that bill to prove that the United States, the world’s largest historical emitter of greenhouse gases, is finally taking strong, firm action to curb emissions. fossil fuels – and to push other countries to do the same. Mr Biden has pledged that the United States will cut its emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
Analysts have found that it will be technically possible, though difficult, for the United States to achieve that goal without passing the clean electricity legislation that Mr. Manchin opposes. The broader spending package still includes about $300 billion in wind and solar tax credits, which analysts say could bring the United States about halfway to Biden’s target. But scrapping the methane tax legislation could further weaken Mr Biden’s case in Glasgow.
A spokeswoman for Mr Manchin did not respond to a request for comment.
A spokeswoman for the senator writing the methane tax bill said it has not yet been removed from the bill.
“The methane fee is not out of the package,” said Rachel Levitan, a spokeswoman for Senator Thomas Carper, the Delaware Democrat who heads the Senate Environment Committee. “Chairman Carper is working to get robust climate provisions into the Reconciliation Act and is in active negotiations to ensure the bill reduces greenhouse gas emissions in a meaningful way.”
Another person familiar with the matter said Mr Manchin appeared to be open to negotiating the details of the methane fee to make it easier and cheaper for natural gas companies to comply.
Separately, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release a draft regulation this week that would force oil and gas producers to monitor and plug methane leaks from existing oil and gas wells. One of the objections of Mr. Manchin against the methane pollution fee is that it could be a duplicate of those rules, according to the two people familiar with the case.
While Senate Democratic leaders have pledged that broader budget legislation — which could be between 5,000 and 10,000 pages — will be completed this week, people familiar with the process said Democrats were more likely to agree to a broad frame of a deal before Mr Biden travels to Glasgow, and that he must advocate to the world that lawmakers will indeed pass the bill soon.
“The whole world knows the name Manchin now,” said Rich Gold, a Democratic energy lobbyist and former EPA adviser. “So if he’s able to go to Glasgow and say, here’s the piece of paper that represents the deal, and here’s Senator Manchin’s name on the bottom, then I think the Germans will be okay.”