Energy & Environment

Democrats target Trump methane rule with Congressional Review Act


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 Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Angus King (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.

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The EPA argued last year that the standards it rescinded were redundant, overlapping substantially with other regulations regarding volatile organic compounds.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

“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 DeGette (D-Colo.), Scott Peters (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 Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Bobby Scott (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.

Tags Angus King Bobby Scott Chuck Schumer Clean Air Act Climate change Congressional Review Act Diana DeGette Martin Heinrich Methane Patty Murray Scott Peters
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