Congressional Republicans are attempting to quickly dismantle former President Barack Obama’s environmental regulations to combat climate change. On Friday, the GOP-controlled House voted 221-191 to overturn an Interior Department rule that aims to limit “fugitive” methane emissions from oil and gas drilling operations on public lands. The natural gas is wasted through leaks, intentional venting, or burning off the gas — a process known as flaring. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global warming potential of methane (CH4) is 34 times stronger than carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 100-year time scale and 86 times more potent than CO2 over 20 years when climate carbon feedbacks are included.
Three Democrats — Jim Costa (CA-16), Henry Cuellar (TX-28) and Collin Peterson (MN-7) — voted in favor of repealing the rule, while 11 Republicans opposed repeal. According to Open Secrets, a guide to money in politics from the Center for Responsive Politics, Costa received $94,525 from the oil and gas industry during the 2015-2016 campaign cycle, Cuellar received $165,305 in campaign funds from the oil and gas industry, and Peterson received $38,075 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry.
“The rollback gives companies permission to waste $330 million dollars of public assets a year, and generate huge amounts of avoidable pollution that contaminates our air and has a devastating effect on public health,” said Elizabeth Thompson, president of the Environmental Defense Action Fund, in a statement. “We call on the U.S. Senate to protect the interests of the American people, and not cast a vote for business as usual for the oil and gas industry.” The legislation next goes to the Republican-majority Senate for a vote.
In addition to allowing unchecked gas flaring again, House Republicans last week voted to repeal an Obama era rule designed to keep coal waste from contaminating streams and waterways. According to the Interior Department, the regulation protects 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests, preventing coal mining debris from being dumped into nearby waters.