A Particulate Problem

As Biden works to cement his environmental legacy before the 2024 elections and fire up his progressive base, his administration is set to release a number of aggressive environmental rules despite industry opposition and activist disappointment.

This Week's Trend In Brief:

  • Before the New Year’s ball drops, Biden is expected to drop stricter rules on particulate matter over objections from the oil and gas industry, Congress, and manufacturers that the proposed rules are economically damaging and scientifically unnecessary. 

  • The “PM2.5” rule is a preview of what Biden has in store for 2024 as he seeks to fire up his progressive base for the election and ensure his environmental legacy is in place in case he loses in November, but this rule won’t stand alone.

  • Biden’s regulatory agenda for 2024 includes plans to finalize rules on a range of environmentalist priorities, including methane and power plant emissions as well as gas stoves and ethylene oxide.

  • Yet environmental activists are not satisfied with the PM2.5 rule and will likely object to the others for not going far enough, meaning the Administration will stay face activists’ ire in the lead up to next November.

  • As the new year approaches, companies will need an information advantage to understand these dynamics and how they can shape the debate as it continues to unfold.

Digging Deeper:

The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce new regulations on fine particulates before the end of the year. The proposed draft rule would require industry to reduce particulate matter from the current 12-microgram standard to a new range from 9 to 10 micrograms. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to reexamine rules regarding fine particulate matter (particles under 2.5 microns, or PM2.5) every five years. The Trump Administration chose not to tighten the standards set in 2012. However, the Biden EPA claims there would be a $55 billion benefit to the economy by 2032 if the standard is tightened.
While Biden’s EPA claims the tighter rule would have an economic benefit, numerous stakeholders warn it will be an economic bust with no scientific basis. IHouse Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Materials Subcommittee Chair Bill Johnson (R-OH) warned the new standards “could threaten $87.4 billion in economic activity per year,” and would lead to the loss of over 300,000 manufacturing jobs, running counter to Biden’s claims of having an industrial policy. A coalition of industry leaders told The White House “no room would be left for new economic development” in many areas if the EPA moves forward with the new standards, which the Administration admitted will cost industry $95 million to $390 million. Yet the steep cost comes despite American air already being near the best in the world, prompting 21 U.S. Senators to send a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan arguing the rule would “produce little to no measurable public health or environmental benefits” yet force all Americans to pay for “the negative consequences of nonattainment.”
Yet even as industry decries th PM2.5 rule, environmentalists claim it is not enough – highlighting the pressure Biden faces to go further faster on environmental policies before next November. Natural Resources Defense Council climate and health scientist Vijay Limaye claimed the rule “still leaves a lot of dangerous air pollution exposures on the table.” League of Conservation Voters senior director of government affairs Matthew Davis claimed the rule “does not adequately slash soot pollution, protect public health, or prevent premature deaths.”
Indeed, the rule comes as progressive and environmental groups express frustration with Biden’s mixed record on their priorities, who the President needs to energize for the 2024 elections. During the 2020 campaign, Biden pledged ambitious climate action and thus far in office Biden passed the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, rejoined the Paris Agreement, and created the nation’s first Climate Task Force. Yet environmental activists remain dissatisfied, with Sunrise Movement leader Varshini Prakash demanding Biden “rack up more wins for our generation.” Indeed, activists are calling on Biden to cancel all LNG export terminals, flooded the streets with protesters demanding he declare a climate emergency, and have stormed numerous events to protest his decision to approve the Mountain Valley Pipeline and Willow. The angst and anger comes as progressive groups warn Biden his mixed record could cost him at the polls next November.
PM2.5 is just the first of several environmental policy moves on environmentalists’ wish list that Biden is expected to make in the coming months. Biden is expected to strengthen and expand methane emission restrictions to include  pipelines, energy production on public and private lands, and carbon capture storage, among other facilities. His administration is also finalizing a rule to require power plants to slash their emissions on an aggressive timeline or shut down. Despite claiming he doesn’t support banning gas stoves, the Biden Administration is proposing a new efficiency standards for consumer cooking appliances his own DOE acknowledges could remove most current gas stoves from the market. Biden is also proposing a rule to drastically limit emissions from plants producing crucial chemicals like ethylene oxide, chloroprene, and benzene. All of these, and a number of others, are expected to be finalized next year, according to the Administration’s most recent Unified Agenda released last spring.
As the new year approaches and Biden seeks to cement his environmental policy legacy, companies will need an information advantage to protect their interests and ensure voters and consumers know the full impact these rules will have. Public affairs professionals and the energy companies they represent can leverage Delve’s well-honed playbook to not only be prepared for this onslaught of rules, but ensure they know the full landscape of stakeholders likely to intervene, including which ones could be allies and whose efforts they’ll have to overcome.

Trends in Energy is your weekly look at key trends affecting the energy industry, brought to you by the competitive intelligence experts at Delve. As the political and regulatory landscape continues to shift, reach out to learn how our insights can help you navigate these challenges.