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Senate blocks move to overturn Obama-era rule on drilling

21 Mai 2017

WASHINGTON-Republican efforts to quickly repeal an environmental regulation from the Obama administration failed Wednesday, the first vote to not pass in the new Congress. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., Democrats blocked the repeal from moving ahead by a vote of 51-49.

The House passed a resolution to repeal the methane rule in February, but the bill stalled in the Senate as some Republicans expressed concern that such a bill would prevent the government from enacting "substantially similar" regulations in the future.

The acting secretary for land and minerals at the Interior Department, Kate MacGregor, said in a statement that the Interior Department has plans to "suspend, revise or rescind", the methane rule for public lands. Jon Tester, D-Mont. The regulations that the Senate voted to keep, however, only apply to drilling efforts on federal land. Three Republicans voted it down, including Sens.

"This rule hurts Montanans and does little to reduce emissions", Daines said.

Energy companies frequently "flare" or burn off vast supplies of methane - the primary component of natural gas - at drilling sites because it earns less money than oil.

Around $330 million of methane either leaks out of pipes or is intentionally burned off in the US every year. According to American Action Forum, savings from these Congressional resolutions will amount to $3.7 billion in total regulatory costs using federal agency estimates and up to $36.2 billion in possible savings based on outside and industry calculations. More information about the Methane Rule can be found on the BLM website.

The methane rules were created to reduce pollution and protect public resources, but theyre opposed by gas and oil drillers, who characterize them as costly and burdensome.

The methane rule regulates how much methane could be released during the processing and production of natural gas that takes place on public or Indian land in the hope of reducing the greenhouse gas. "The rule could impede US energy production while reducing local and federal government revenues", said a statement from Erik Milito, who directs upstream and industry operations at API. The vote on Wednesday was always expected to be close, and Vice President Mike Pence was at the Capitol and could have broken a tie if needed. Today's defeat is the only CRA resolution under Trump to have failed.

The EPA estimates that oil and gas companies release approximately 9.8 million metric tons of methane into the air annually.

But the scientists also concluded that while the industry got better at preventing methane leaks, increased production of oil and gas in the United States had offset that achievement.

Set by the Obama administration in November 2016, the regulation to limit methane emissions on public and tribal lands faced stiff opposition from oil and gas producers, the Trump White House, and conservative lawmakers, even though polling suggests it enjoys overwhelming support in the western states most affected by the rule.

Senate blocks move to overturn Obama-era rule on drilling