On April 28, the US Senate voted to restore an Obama-era rule that cracked down on methane emissions from oil and gas industries as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to tackle climate change.
What is Happening?
- The regulation requires companies to monitor and repair new natural gas equipment in order to cut down on methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas.
- The vote was 52-42. The proposal will now go to the House.
- The Obama-era rule was rolled back in 2016 by Donald Trump’s administration.
- The vote will be the first time since Democrats took control of the Senate in January that they used an obscure law, called the Congressional Review Act, to undo a Trump rule. The CRA allows Congress to rescind within 60 legislative days a regulation put in place by an administration without having to clear the 60-vote threshold in the Senate that is necessary for most legislation.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “President Biden has challenged the United States to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. The best way to achieve this ambitious goal is through bold action by this Congress- through legislation- to reduce greenhouse pollution while creating millions of jobs and economic prosperity in the new clean energy economy. This is the first, and large, step in that direction.”
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- This regulation rollback comes amid news that the annual increase in methane levels hit a record high in 2020 despite COVID-19- related shutdowns around the world. Methane traps heat much better than carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas, but degrades faster.
- Major oil and gas companies like Exxon, Shell and BP opposed Trump’s rollback of Obama’s methane rule, as they argued that natural gas was cleaner than coal. However, some smaller producers supported the Trump administration’s effort.
West Virginia Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito said that the move was “nothing more than political posturing,” and another sign that Democrats are targeting the oil and gas industry. She said, “Let’s come up with solutions that actually help protect our planet, and don’t overregulate industry for political points.”