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Senators eye rollback of Trump methane rule with Congressional Review Act

Senators eye rollback of Trump methane rule with Congressional Review Act
© Greg Nash

Lawmakers are weighing using the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to reverse a Trump era-rule that limits the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate methane.

Sens. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichSenate votes to nix Trump rule limiting methane regulation Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap Democrats battle over best path for Puerto Rico MORE (D-N.M.) and Angus KingAngus KingDC statehood bill picks up Senate holdout Senate panel deadlocks in vote on sweeping elections bill Senate descends into hours-long fight over elections bill MORE (I-Maine) have drafted a resolution of disapproval on the August methane rule, according to a copy reviewed by The Hill, the first step in using the CRA to unwind a regulation.

The act allows Congress to nix any regulations finalized in the previous 60 legislative days, a period stretching back to mid-August.

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Critics described the former Trump administration's rule as a gift to the oil and gas industry, eliminating existing requirements on oil and gas companies to install technology to monitor methane emissions from pipelines, wells and facilities.

The agency argued at the time that the standards it rescinded were redundant, overlapping substantially with other regulations regarding volatile organic compounds.

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.

King had previously blasted the regulation calling it “the single worst thing that could be done to attack the climate.”

“This is a serious national security concern and it’s a serious concern for the future of this country. I just hope these people have to face their grandchildren and explain to them why they took this step,” he said.

Neither Heinrich's nor King’s office responded to request for comment on the draft.

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If the lawmakers proceed to introduce the legislation, it would be the first rollback of Trump environmental policy Democrats target with the CRA.

It also would come as lawmakers are rapidly approaching the deadline to use the technique, with advocates urging action prior to recess in order to safely comply with the act’s timelines.

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 CRA that then blocks the relevant agency from crafting another rule that’s substantially similar.

Democrats have thus far made efforts to use the CRA for only one other Trump-era rule, with The Nation reporting that Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayBiden's pre-K plan is a bipartisan opportunity to serve the nation's children Schumer 'exploring' passing immigration unilaterally if talks unravel Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap MORE (D-Wash.) and Rep. Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottHouse passes bill mandating accommodations for pregnant workers Biden's pre-K plan is a bipartisan opportunity to serve the nation's children Democrats target Trump methane rule with Congressional Review Act MORE (D-Va.) are drafting a resolution of disapproval for a rule weakening the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.