The US Senate declined to overturn an Obama-era rule that requires oil and gas companies to limit their methane emissions if they’re drilling on federal and tribal lands.
The outcome of the 51-49 vote was surprising given that Congress has thus far opted 13 times to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn recent rules made in the previous administration, according to the Washington Post.
Every democrat in the Senate voted against the motion to overturn the methane rule, including Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)—senators from fossil fuel-rich states who often vote in favor of those interests. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) also joined the democrats.
The rule allows the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to set standards to prevent methane leaks and excessive flaring (that is, burning off methane that escapes during drilling).
BLM will also be allowed to inspect drilling operations for leaks of methane, a key component of natural gas.
The rule was supposed to have two main benefits.
From a climate change perspective, methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases and is a major contributor to global warming, so preventing leaks will reduce those emissions.
From a resource-use perspective, oil and gas companies must pay royalties on natural gas extracted from operations on federal and tribal lands, so the rule would reduce waste and ideally result in a better return on those royalties.
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