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 HeinrichOn The Money — No SALT, and maybe no deal SALT change likely to be cut from bill, say Senate Democrats Democrats torn over pushing stolen-election narrative MORE (D-N.M.) and Angus KingAngus KingThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden's public moment of frustration Democrats say change to filibuster just a matter of time Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law 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The agency argued at the time that the standards it rescinded were redundant, overlapping substantially with other regulations regarding volatile organic compounds.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.

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 MurrayNo. 3 Senate Democrat says Biden should tap Black woman for Supreme Court Biden's pledge to appoint Black woman back in spotlight amid Breyer retirement Overnight Health Care — Senators unveil pandemic prep overhaul 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.) are drafting a resolution of disapproval for a rule weakening the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.