Dem senator: Possible methane vote would be ‘a huge step backward’

Dem senator: Possible methane vote would be ‘a huge step backward’

A top Senate Democrat on Monday said members will be forced to choose between “pollution or people” if Republicans bring to the floor a bill undoing an Obama administration methane rule. 

“It would be a huge step backward if the Senate repealed the [Bureau of Land Management’s] methane rule,” said Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellOvernight Energy: Supreme Court reinstates fast-track pipeline permit except for Keystone XL | Judge declines to reverse Dakota Access Pipeline shutdown OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Watchdog accuses Commerce of holding up 'Sharpiegate' report | Climate change erases millennia of cooling: study | Senate nixes proposal limiting Energy Department's control on nuclear agency budget Senate nixes proposal limiting Energy Department's control on nuclear agency budget MORE (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“We can preserve and protect our valuable natural resources and we can protect the health of our citizens, or we can go back to more pollution and more waste.”

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Cantwell said she thinks it's “likely” Republicans will vote this week on a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution undoing the BLM rule, which limits venting and flaring of methane at natural gas sites on federal land. 

Under the terms of the CRA, the Senate needs to pass the resolution by Thursday if it wants to quickly strip the regulation off the books. Sen. John CornynJohn CornynMJ Hegar wins Democratic battle to challenge John Cornyn The Hill's Campaign Report: Key races take shape in Alabama, Texas, Maine 5 key races to watch on Tuesday MORE (R-Texas) told reporters last week that the bill will come to the floor before then, though leadership has yet to schedule a vote on the resolution. 

Cantwell, on a call with reporters Monday, previewed Democrats’ arguments in favor of keeping the methane rule in place. 

Supporters say cutting methane is good for both environmental and economic reasons: Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and contributes to climate change, but it’s also the main component of natural gas, and producers are able to sell off methane they capture that might otherwise have been released into the atmosphere. 

“We can side with people and keep in a place a common sense rule that is already saving taxpayers money and keeping our children healthy, or we can side with polluters and allow them to go back to needlessly wasting our natural gas resources,” Cantwell said. 

Drillers say the rule is overly restrictive and that producers are already cutting methane pollution on their own, both through internal controls and state regulations.