While Democrats and environmentalists celebrated the defeat of Senate legislation to repeal a methane regulation, the Trump administration signaled it will rescind the rule on its own.
Acting Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Kate MacGregor said the department would “suspend, revise or rescind” the methane regulation, which the Obama administration opposed in its final weeks.
“As part of President Trump’s America-First Energy Strategy and executive order, the Department has reviewed and flagged the Waste Prevention rule as one we will suspend, revise or rescind given its significant regulatory burden that encumbers American energy production, economic growth and job creation,” MacGregor said in a statement.
The Senate defeated a Congressional Review Act (CRA) bill Wednesday after three Republicans voted “no” to repealing the methane rule. Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Susan Collin of Maine crossed the aisle to oppose the CRA with Democrats.
Environmentalists celebrated the vote, claiming the methane rule — imposed by the Obama administration — protects air quality and public health. Supporters also said the methane rule would bring in more revenue from methane that would otherwise be flared.
Obama’s methane rule imposes new regulations on venting and flaring natural gas from drilling operations on public lands managed by the Interior Department. The $1.8 billion rule was one of many “midnight” rules the Obama administration rushed to finish before Trump took office.
“The rule is expected to have real and harmful impacts on onshore energy development and could impact state and local jobs and revenue,” MacGregor said.
“Small independent oil and gas producers in states like North Dakota, Colorado and New Mexico, which account for a substantial portion of our nation’s energy wealth, could be hit the hardest,” MacGregor said.
Obama imposed rules on methane as part of his Climate Action Plan, specifically targeted emissions from natural gas drilling. Environmentalists have long pushed for stricter rules on methane emissions.
Pro-drilling and industry groups challenged the methane rule in court, arguing it impeded on states’ rights and was beyond the scope of the Interior Department’s regulatory authority.
Methane rule opponents also argue emissions from natural gas drilling have been falling as technology has improved, meaning no regulation is necessary.
“The oil and natural gas industry has done more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than any other, including wind and solar,” Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Alliance, said in a statement.
“That success, along with our long-term reduction in methane emissions by 21 percent was trumped by the environmental lobby’s misinformation about a rule that will continue to drive responsible energy production off federal lands,” Sgamma said.
The Western Energy Alliance and the Independent Petroleum Association of America sued Interior over the methane rule.
Courts declined to stay the regulation, so drillers will have to comply — at least in the near term.
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