President Donald Trump is facing opposition to his rolling back of environmental regulations. Of course climate activists and Democrats are fighting back against the administration’s attempts to undermine Obama-era rules on everything from fuel efficiency standards to preventing coal ash from being dumped in rivers. On at least one Trump action however, it is Republicans in the Senate who are pushing back — a bill to overturn a methane regulation for public lands has stalled in the Senate (it passed the GOP-controlled House in February) because, according to reporting from Mother Jones, “a number of moderate and Western state Republican senators have worried about the implications of permanently restricting the Interior Department’s ability to regulate methane emissions.”
Methane is a powerful, although short-lived, greenhouse gas with at least 86 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide over a time span of 20 years in the atmosphere and 34 times the strength of CO2 over a 100-year time scale. The Interior Department’s methane and natural gas rule limits the release of methane from oil and gas operations on public lands. The natural gas is wasted through leaks, intentional venting, or burning off the gas — a process known as flaring.
Some Senate Republicans are hedging on repealing the methane rules because of the permanency of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) that allows for Congress to overturn federal rulemaking with a simple majority vote. In other words, the CRA blocks federal agencies from putting forward similar rules at any point in the future, meaning the Bureau of Land Management might not ever be able to regulate methane pollution on public lands no matter who sits in the White House or what party controls Congress.
A recent survey by Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions found strong support for current federal methane regulations aimed at reducing natural gas emissions. “The idea that conservatives would be attacking a waste reduction measure is kind of bizarre,” the Wilderness Society’s deputy director of energy and climate, Josh Mantell, told Mother Jones.
Via Mother Jones