Senate rejects repeal of key Obama-era methane rule

Posted May 10, 2017 by Karen Graham
In a surprise move today, three GOP Senators joined with Democratic Senators in rejecting a move to repeal the Obama-era methane rule limiting methane emissions from oil and gas drilling.
North Dakota: Flaring of methane gas out of the Bakken Formation.
North Dakota: Flaring of methane gas out of the Bakken Formation.
Joshua Doubek (CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Washington Post is reporting that the U.S. Senate narrowly voted down a resolution to repeal the methane emissions rule issued by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management in November 2016. All 48 Democrats were joined by three GOP Senators, including, Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Susan Collins (Maine) and John McCain (Ariz.).
This is the first time in Trump's presidency that Republicans have helped in voting down a repeal of an Obama-era rule, with the final vote being 51 to 49. The rule targeted methane, a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting for 10 percent of all U.S. emissions of GHG.
The Obama administration estimated the rule would help to reduce methane emissions by about 180,000 tons annually. Basically, the rule would require oil and gas companies to capture methane rather than burning or flaring it off. The Senators opposed to the rule say the regulation is costly and unnecessary, reports The Verge.
While Graham and Collins had previously announced their plans to vote against repealing the rule, The Hill writes that John McCain's vote came as a surprise. He says he voted against the resolution because he feared it would prevent the BLM from writing a better rule in the future.
“While I am concerned that the BLM rule may be onerous, the passage of the resolution would have prevented the federal government, under any administration, from issuing a rule that is ‘similar,’ according to the plain reading of the Congressional Review Act,” he said in a statement.
Inspectors look over equipment a facility that emits methane gas.
Photo by polandeze
“This is a good, solid rule, and it's a commonsense rule, and I think it prevents waste just like it was laid out to do,” Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) said on the floor. “We're preventing waste, we're doing job creation, and we're acting on the part of public health.”
While the rule survived Congressional legislation, Trump's Interior Department still has the opportunity to repeal, revise or rescind the Obama-era rule, and you can bet your bottom dollar they will try. Kate MacGregor, the Interior Department's acting secretary for land and minerals, issued a statement saying the department already had the rule in their sights and the agency will “suspend, revise or rescind given its significant regulatory burden that encumbers American energy production, economic growth, and job creation," citing one of Trump's vast number of executive orders.