Senate rejects methane rule repeal

The U.S. Senate this morning rejected an effort to repeal the Bureau of Land Management’s new rule controlling methane emissions from oil and gas development.

The action came in a 49-51 vote, with three Republicans joining Democrats including Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado in voting down a measure to further consider the matter.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who had been declining to say how he might vote on the issue, voted with the Republican minority to move forward with debate on the issue.

U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., cast a key Republican vote against considering repeal of the rule.

The rule was approved during the Obama administration and the resolution would have rescinded it through use of the Congressional Review Act. The House already had voted in favor of repealing the rule.

Gardner had come under intense lobbying from both supporters and opponents of the rule. Supporters say it will reduce waste and pollution and boost federal royalties, while the industry says it is costly, unnecessary and would reduce production.

“This rule has widespread support from people across the West and across the political spectrum,” Rodger Steen of the Western Colorado Congress citizens group, said in a news release. “It saves taxpayers money on lost royalties that are literally being flared, leaked, and vented into the air from public oil and gas leases on public lands. The only real entity opposing the rule was the industry, which spent millions of dollars trying to kill it. It is good to see that common sense protections supported by a majority of people across the country can still win the day in Congress.”

The American Petroleum Institute said that while it is disappointed with the vote, it is encouraged that the Interior Department is undertaking its own review of the rule.

“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,” said Erik Milito of API. “The rule could impede U.S. energy production while reducing local and federal government revenues.”

The national rule follows on the heels of the first-in-the-nation rules on methane emissions from oil and gas development, adopted by Colorado in 2014. Some other states have followed suit with similar limits.

Gardner said in a statement released this morning, “The Senate rejected a procedural measure today to advance debate of the (Congressional Review Act) involving the methane rule, and the Senate will not consider repealing the rule implemented by the Obama Administration. Colorado has one of the strictest regulations on methane emissions in the country. Our state is an example of what can be achieved when states work to find answers that best fit the needs of local interests, and the Colorado way will continue to be the standard.”

Gardner’s spokesman, Casey Contres, said it would be incorrect to say the senator’s procedural vote indicated that he planned to vote for the repeal of the rule itself had debate over the issue gone forward.

“As he does with every vote he was going to continue to listen to his constituents up until the Senate was prepared to vote (on) the measure, and was prepared for a robust dialogue among Senators on the Senate floor during consideration of the measure,” Contres said in an email.

Bennet cast the 51st vote today stopping the repeal effort, with Vice President Mike Pence on hand at the Capitol and in a position to cast the tie-breaking vote had senators split 50-50 on the matter.
Bennet chided Pence on Twitter, saying, “Honored that I could cast the 51st vote instead of the @VP. Next time call ahead…could have saved you the trip. #winning.”



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