House votes to block funding for EPA methane pollution rule

House votes to block funding for EPA methane pollution rule
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Lawmakers voted Wednesday to block implementation of a key Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pollution rule.

The House voted 218-195 to strip funding for an Obama-era EPA effort to limit methane emissions from new oil and gas drilling sites. Eleven Republicans voted against the amendment, and 3 Democrats voted to block funding for the regulation.

“This rule is currently facing litigation and uncertainty, and Congress must act to block this job-killing regulation estimated to cost the U.S. economy $530 million annually,” Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) said during debate on the measure last week.

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“Methane emissions from oil and natural gas have significantly declined in recent decades without multiple, overlapping federal regulations, and this is no exception.”

The EPA finalized its methane rule in early 2016 as part of an Obama administration effort to reduce emissions of the pollutant, which has significantly more global warming potential than carbon dioxide. The rule was a critical part of Obama’s second-term climate agenda.

Stripping the methane rule from the books has been a leading goal of the oil and gas industry. Drillers have argued they are able and willing to reduce methane emissions on their own and under state regulations. They say that federal rules will harm their bottom lines.

Republicans have largely backed the industry on the rule.

“The free market has provided an incentive to reduce methane release on its own,” Rep. Paul GosarPaul Anthony GosarHouse panel passes bill to boost drilling on federal land, offshore GOP Senate hopeful Kelli Ward leads challengers in internal poll GOP lawmaker spars with CNN reporter over Charlottesville conspiracy theories MORE (R-Ariz.) said during floor debate. “There is no further need for EPA to impose costly bureaucratic hurdles on these sensitive industries.”

President Trump’s EPA has proposed a two-year delay for the rule and public comment on the proposal closed last month.

The agency attempted to halt enforcement of the rule while it works to adopt the two-year delay, but federal judges have blocked an agency proposal to do so.

The EPA said afterward that it would enforce the rule on a “case-by-case basis.”

But Democrats are concerned the agency will not seriously enforce the rule.

Eight Senate Democrats last week called the EPA effort “an attempt to accomplish by an ad hoc enforcement approach what it could not accomplish through its unlawful stay.”

Environmentalists and Democrats have defended the rule as an important effort to crack down on climate change-causing pollutants.

“There is no doubt at all that methane contributes to the increased levels of greenhouse gas concentrations, which contribute to the long-lasting changes in our climate, such as rising global temperatures, sea level change, in weather and precipitation patterns and changes in the ecosystem's habits and species diversity,” Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) said during floor debate.

Mullin’s amendment was attached to a large federal spending package the House hopes to pass this week.

This story was updated at 2:56 p.m.