Week ahead: House prepares to quash last-minute Obama energy rules

Week ahead: House prepares to quash last-minute Obama energy rules
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Congressional Republicans will begin the process of gutting major Obama administration environmental rules next week. 

In an op-ed on Tuesday, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the House would move two Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolutions next week to block two late rules issued by Obama. 

The CRA resolutions will target two Interior Department regulations issued in the closing months of Obama's term. 

First on the GOP's list is the Stream Protection Rule, a regulation designed to protect small waterways from pollution associated with coal mining. 

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Environmentalists say the rule -- finalized in December after a review process that lasted the entire Obama presidency -- is critical to protecting water quality in coal-heavy states. But the mining industry says the regulation will threaten jobs, and congressional Republicans say that's the more important consideration. 

"Congress has an obligation to ensure executive actions are consistent with congressional intent, and that agencies operate in accordance with their statutory mandate," Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopHouse Natural Resources chairman pledges to retire after next term Trump's monument plan still shrouded in secrecy Greens threaten lawsuit over potential monument reductions MORE (R-Utah), the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, told reporters Friday. 

"When they don't, and in this case they haven't, it is our responsibility to act."

Lawmakers are also taking aim at an Interior rule to limit methane emissions from oil and natural gas wells on federal land.  The Obama administration considered methane, a pollutant with global warming potential 25 times higher than that of carbon dioxide, worthy of strict regulation, but the drilling industry again warned about its impact on employment in fossil fuel states.

"The additional regulation would force small and struggling operations--in the West in particular--to close up shop, which is why it will be one of the first to go," McCarthy wrote in his op-ed.

Lawmakers will also consider a measure next week to undo a Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring more financial information from oil, natural gas and mineral developers.

If approved by the House and the Senate, President Trump has indicated he would sign the resolutions, meaning the GOP is within striking distance of repealing the rules. CRA resolutions require only a majority vote in the Senate, meaning Democrats can't filibuster the resolution. 

In the Senate, several Trump administration nominees start moving toward confirmation. 

On Monday, senators will take a procedural vote on former ExxonMobil Corp. CEO Rex Tillerson's nomination to be secretary of State.  Tillerson, buoyed by support last week from several Republicans who are hawks on Russia, including Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill Trump bets base will stick with him on immigration MORE (R-Fla.), is expected to win confirmation. 

Senators on the Environment and Public Works Committee will vote on Trump's Environmental Protection Agency nominee Scott Pruitt on Wednesday.

Pruitt is among Trump's most controversial nominees. Environmentalists and many Democrats, including several on the committee, have come out against Pruitt, warning that he will undermine the EPA's mission and undo Obama climate rules.

The GOP, though, expects Pruitt to be a stabilizing agent at the EPA, aiming to rein in what they consider overregulation from the agency. 

Republicans on the committee and in the Senate at large have supported Pruitt, and some moderate energy-state Democrats have yet to come down on his nomination either way, meaning he's likely to win confirmation right now. But expect him to come out of committee on a party-line vote on Wednesday.  

The Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday will consider Ryan Zinke's nomination to lead the Interior Department and Rick Perry's nomination to be Energy Secretary. The votes were originally scheduled -- and then, hours later, cancelled  -- for last Tuesday. A Senate aide last week said the cancellation was due to a "misunderstanding" between top committee lawmakers. 

Neither nomination is expected to be particularly controversial.   

 

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