Trump Loses Senate Vote To Repeal Obama-Era Methane Rule Thanks To McCain

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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The Senate could not muster the votes Wednesday to overturn an Obama-era regulation on methane emissions from oil and gas drilling operations on federal lands.

The Senate voted 51 to 49 in favor of the Interior Department rule, with Arizona Republican John McCain surprisingly casting the deciding vote to support the Obama administration regulation.

If McCain had voted to ax the methane rule, the Senate would have been deadlocked and Vice President Mike Pence would have been able to cast a tie-breaking vote.

House lawmakers passed a Congressional Review Act (CRA) bill to repeal the methane rule in February. President Donald Trump was expected to sign the measure if it had passed the Senate.

The rule sets sharp limits on the amount of methane that can be leaked from energy development on public lands. Obama claimed the rule cut down on emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Republicans claimed that the rule is burdensome, redundant and ineffective.

Environmentalists cast the vote as a defeat for “Big Oil.”

“Today’s victory against Trump’s plan to hand our public lands to Big Oil is a win for the American people, Lukas Ross, an activist with the environmental group Friends of the Earth, said in a press statement. “Reducing venting and flaring from oil wells will reduce emissions contributing to climate change and save public resources. Today the Senate proved it will not always rob taxpayers to line Big Oil’s pockets.”

The oil and gas industry opposed the Obama-era methane rule, saying it would have forced thousands of marginal wells to stop producing.

“America’s natural gas and oil industry supports commonsense regulation, but the BLM’s technically flawed rule on methane emissions is an unnecessary and costly misstep,” Erik Milito, Upstream director at the American Petroleum Institute, said in a press statement. “The rule could impede U.S. energy production while reducing local and federal government revenues.”

President Donald Trump and Congress used CRA to repeal $3.7 billion in Obama-era regulations some of which were enacted by the BLM, according to the right-leaning American Action Forum (AAF).If the Senate had voted to repeal the BLM regulation, it would have saved $1.8 billion and eliminate 82,170 hours of paperwork, according to AAF.

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