Democrats target Trump methane rule with Congressional Review Act

Democrats target Trump methane rule with Congressional Review Act
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The Senate will take up a resolution to roll back a Trump-era rule that limits the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to regulate methane.

The Hill first reported Wednesday that the lawmakers had drafted the legislation to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows Congress to nix any regulations finalized in the previous 60 legislative days, against the methane rule.

The legislation, spearheaded by Sens. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichSenate panel advances controversial public lands nominee in tie vote A plan to address the growing orphaned wells crisis Schumer vows to only pass infrastructure package that is 'a strong, bold climate bill' MORE (D-N.M.) and Angus KingAngus KingSenate falling behind on infrastructure Hillicon Valley: Senators introduce bill to require some cyber incident reporting | UK citizen arrested in connection to 2020 Twitter hack | Officials warn of cyber vulnerabilities in water systems Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor MORE (I-Maine), targets an August rule finalized by the Trump administration that critics described as a gift to the oil and gas industry, which leaks heat-trapping methane during production.

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“In the wake of the Trump administration, there are very few Clean Air Act protections left in place to limit emissions of dangerous methane pollution from the production, processing, transmission and storage of oil and gas in the United States,” Heinrich said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck Schumer84 mayors call for immigration to be included in reconciliation Senate infrastructure talks on shaky grounds Could Andrew Cuomo — despite scandals — be re-elected because of Trump? MORE (D-N.Y.) announced Thursday that the Senate would take the bill up after returning from April recess.

The EPA argued last year that the standards it rescinded were redundant, overlapping substantially with other regulations regarding volatile organic compounds.

But the rule was especially alarming to environmentalists given that methane is significantly more harmful to the planet than carbon dioxide. Some studies indicate that the climate change-linked gas is 80 times more adept at trapping heat in the atmosphere in the first 20 years than carbon dioxide is.

“When it comes to steps we can take to address climate change, limiting methane emissions is the low-hanging fruit,” King said in a statement. 

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“The gas traps an immense amount of atmospheric heat significantly more than carbon dioxide — and is relatively cheap and easy to capture. That’s why it was so dangerous when the previous administration neglected their responsibility to protect the planet, putting the short-term interests of polluters over the long-term interests of the planet we will leave to our children and grandchildren. It’s critical that Congress rolls back last year’s environmental sabotage, and reinstates rules limiting methane emissions.”

Democrats need just 50 votes in the Senate to overturn a regulation using the CRA — something that could still be difficult with the party's razor-thin margins.

Reps. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteHouse to take big step on eliminating Trump-era rules Nick Offerman testifies before Congress on vaccines: 'Medicine doesn't care who you voted for' Democrats target Trump methane rule with Congressional Review Act MORE (D-Colo.), Scott PetersScott H. PetersOvernight Energy: Democrats seek to tackle climate change with import tax | Advocates say bigger deal needed to meet climate crisis | Western wildfires worsen with 80 different fires Democrats unveil polluter import tax legislation Brewing battle over tax hikes to test Democratic unity MORE (D-Calif.) and Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) will introduce the same resolution in the House.

Democrats have thus far made efforts to use the CRA for only one other Trump-era rule, with Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayTech executives increased political donations amid lobbying push Schumer, Tim Scott lead as Senate fundraising pace heats up Sunday shows preview: As delta variant spreads, US leaders raise concerns MORE (D-Wash.) and Rep. Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottBiden celebrates anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act Now is the time to end the subminimum wage for people with disabilities House passes bill to ease standards for age discrimination cases MORE (D-Va.) forwarding a resolution of disapproval for a rule weakening the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The CRA was a legislative tool favored by Republicans in the early days of the Trump administration, used by a GOP-led Congress to strike down 14 regulations from the Obama era.

But Democrats have been more reluctant to use the CRA, partly due to concern over statutory language in the law that blocks the relevant agency from then crafting another rule that’s substantially similar.

—Updated at 12:50 p.m.