WASHINGTON, May 10, 2017 – The Senate today unexpectedly rejected a resolution calling for the repeal of an Obama administration rule restricting methane venting and flaring on public and tribal lands.
Three Republicans – John McCain of Arizona, Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and Maine’s Susan Collins – joined every Democrat in voting against the resolution, which failed in a 51-49 vote. The House voted to get rid of the rule in February.
Supporters of the restrictions argued that the Waste Prevention rule, issued by the Bureau of Land Management in November, would help clean the nation’s air while creating jobs, improving oil and gas production efficiency, and boosting local, state and federal revenues from the increased output from the captured gases.
Democrat Michael Bennet had pointed out that these benefits are being proven by similar methane restrictions his home state of Colorado introduced in 2014, with positive results and broad public support.
Repeal advocates included Myron Ebell at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Thomas Pyle at American Energy Alliance, Grover Norquist at Americans for Tax Reform, and eight other conservative groups. They sent a joint letter to senators last week, charging that without repeal, the BLM rule “will cost roughly $297 million per year” and “decrease energy production on federal lands, leading to fewer revenues from royalties and higher energy costs, not to mention lost jobs.”
In sharp contrast, Senate Energy Committee ranking member Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said at a press briefing on Monday that wasteful flaring, venting, and methane leaking not only means lost production for oil companies but a reduction in royalty payments to the federal government.
Warning that “it would be a huge step backward if the Senate repealed the BLM methane rule,” she said the choice was between “a common-sense rule that is already saving taxpayers money” or “we can go back to more pollution and more waste.”
EDF Action, the advocacy arm of the Environmental Defense Fund, called the Senate vote “a huge win.”
“For months now, our opposition in the Senate has been scrambling to gather enough votes to roll back common-sense standards limiting the dangerous climate pollution emitted by the oil and gas industry on our federal lands,” the group said in an email. “They just lost the vote – and their chance to strip these crucial clean air and climate protections has slipped away.”
Today’s vote was the first time since President Trump’s election that Republicans failed in their attempt to use the Congressional Review Act to repeal rules passed by the Obama administration. GOP lawmakers had success with 13 earlier resolutions. The window to use the Act, which allows Congress to overturn rules within 60 days of their adoption, expires tomorrow.