In a mini “mutiny” inside the Senate, moments ago three republicans joined with Senate Democrats to reject overturning an Obama administration rule limiting methane emissions from oil and natural gas drilling, also known as H.J. Res. 36. Only 49 senators voted to move forward with debate on legislation to undo the Bureau of Land Management rule, short of the 51 majority needed to advance the measure.
The vote was the Senate GOP’s last chance to overturn an Obama rule through the CRA, which provides a streamlined method for blocking regulations, but sets a time limit on when Congress can vote.
Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) joined all 48 members of the Democratic caucus in rejecting the resolution under the Congressional Review Act. It is unclear if this was an ideological objection or – especially in the case of McCain – one seeking to hobble Trump’s agenda. Indeed, Graham and Collins had previously publicized their plans to vote against the legislation. But McCain’s vote came as a surprise, and prevented the need for a tiebreaker from the Vice President.
While final passage of the vote on the Congressional Review Act resolution may happen later today according to Bloomberg, the vote is a major loss for congressional Republicans, who had targeted the methane rule as a prime Obama regulation to undo. They argue that it unnecessarily adds costs to oil and natural gas drilling on federal land.
Some more details From The Hill:
Republicans went into a side room off of the Senate floor after the final vote was submitted, and held the vote open, but no senator changed his or her vote. Vice President Mike Pence also came to the Capitol in case his vote was needed to break a tie.
The methane rule sets standards for what oil and natural gas drillers on federal land must do to stop the waste of methane, the key component of natural gas, through venting or burning it at the well site.
It is primarily designed to prevent the waste of a valuable resource that belongs to taxpayers. But since methane is a greenhouse gas as much as 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide, the rule also has climate change benefits. It was part of a wide-ranging strategy by Obama to tackle methane emissions in the final years of his presidency.
While the congressional effort has failed, Trump’s Interior Department nonetheless could repeal the rule itself though an extensive rulemaking process. A Trump executive order in March instructed Interior and other agencies to roll back Obama’s climate agenda and other regulations that impede the production and use of domestic energy resources. Under that order, Interior is considering whether to repeal the BLM methane rule, but has not committed or proposed to do so yet.