House votes to overturn Obama drilling rule

House votes to overturn Obama drilling rule
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The House on Friday passed a resolution to reverse a pollution rule for oil and natural gas drillers that was put in place by the Obama administration. 

Members voted 221-191 to approve a Congressional Review Act resolution against the Bureau of Land Management’s methane venting and flaring rule. If approved by the Senate and signed by President Trump, the rule would come off the books for good.

Republicans and the oil industry say the rule would hinder energy production on federal lands by restricting drilling, costing jobs as well as tax and royalty payments for state and local governments.

“It is a costly rule and a totally unnecessary rule,” said Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopOvernight Energy: Puerto Rico officials defend Whitefish deal before Congress | US wants level playing field at UN climate summit | House passes flood insurance overhaul GOP chairman cites ‘credibility gap’ in Puerto Rico recovery Lawyers warned Puerto Rico utility against Whitefish contract MORE (R-Utah), the chairman of the Natural Resources Committee. The resolution, he said,  “will help people, it will support people. This rule’s repeal is a vote for people, and making sure that their lives are better, not worse.”

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Democrats and the rule’s supporters consider the regulation more beneficial than costly, saying it will cut pollution, combat climate change, and put more natural gas onto the energy market.

The rule “is a win for the taxpayer, a win for the environment, a win for the climate and a win for common sense,” Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) said.

“The Republican anti-regulatory, anti-taxpayer, anti-health, anti-environment machine must be continually fed.”

The methane rule grew out of an Obama administration effort to tackle methane pollution, which has 25-times the climate change potential of carbon dioxide.

The BLM's rule would crack down on leaks of methane from natural gas wells on federal land and restrict flaring, the practice by which drillers burn off excess natural gas produced at drilling sites.

Environmentalists and Obama regulators say the rule will help cut down on methane pollution. Activists in the West — where most of the federal land wells are located — note that there's a financial aspect to the methane debate as well: through leaks and flaring, natural gas worth up to $400 million is lost each year.

“You don’t have to support the methane waste rule to see why repealing it using the Congressional Review Act will only make the problem worse,” Ryan Alexander, the president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, said earlier this week when a Senate version of the methane resolution was introduced.

“Taxpayers have been losing millions every year from wasted gas thanks to outdated, ineffective rules. A vote to repeal the methane rule is a vote to make the old rules permanent, which would be a disaster for taxpayers.”

The drilling industry has consistently said federal methane regulations — like this one from the BLM or an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation for new wells on private land — serve to restrict the industry and threaten jobs and energy production. Industry groups note producers have already slashed methane emissions at their wells, thanks in part to internal rules and state regulations.

“This redundant and technically flawed rule will further impede oil and natural gas production on federal land, which already has been declining,” American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard said in a letter to House leaders this week.

“The rule is a step backwards for U.S. energy policy and all Americans who benefit from domestic energy production.”

Congressional Republicans have taken aim at several Obama-era efforts to cut down on methane emissions. They’ve also worked extensively this week to stop Obama-era rules on the environment and in other industries.

Both the House and Senate this week approved Congressional Review Act resolutions against a rule to protect water from coal mining debris, along with a regulation calling for more financial information from drillers and miners. President Trump supports those resolutions, and when he signs them, they will be only the second and third CRA measures to successfully undo a rule. 

The House this week also passed a CRA resolution against a Social Security Administration rule to block disability recipients with mental disorders from owning guns.

Republicans say the resolutions are necessary tools for undoing rules issued late in the Obama administration. Democrats have broadly opposed the resolutions.