Democrats target Trump methane rule with Congressional Review Act

Democrats target Trump methane rule with Congressional Review Act
© iStock

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 HeinrichDemocrats torn over pushing stolen-election narrative Overnight Energy & Environment — Starting from 'scratch' on climate, spending bill Eight senators ask Biden to reverse course on Trump-era solar tariffs MORE (D-N.M.) and Angus KingAngus KingEffort to overhaul archaic election law wins new momentum Manchin, Collins leading talks on overhauling election law, protecting election officials For 2022, the Senate must work in a bipartisan manner to solve the American people's concerns 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

“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 SchumerVoting rights failed in the Senate — where do we go from here? Forced deadline spurs drastic tactic in Congress Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans 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The EPA argued last year that the standards it rescinded were redundant, overlapping substantially with other regulations regarding volatile organic compounds.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. 

“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 DeGetteNebraska Republican tests positive for COVID-19 in latest congressional breakthrough case The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Voting rights week for Democrats (again) Maryland Democrat announces positive COVID-19 test MORE (D-Colo.), Scott PetersScott H. PetersOvernight Energy & Environment — Starting from 'scratch' on climate, spending bill Bipartisan lawmakers announce climate adaptation bill Desperate Dems signal support for cutting Biden bill down in size 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 MurrayThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 CDC leader faces precarious political moment Schumer ramps up filibuster fight ahead of Jan. 6 anniversary MORE (D-Wash.) and Rep. Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottProposed Virginia maps put rising-star House Democrats at risk Industry, labor groups at odds over financial penalties in spending package Historically Black colleges and universities could see historic funding under Biden plan 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.