Friday, May 12, 2017

Methane Rule Not Rescinded

This week the Senate Failed to Pass a Resolution to Roll Back the Obama-era Bureau of Land Management "Methane Rule" by a very tight 49-51 vote.

McCain explained that he voted against the Measure because it was a "Congressional Review Act" (CRA) Resolution, which not only would rescind the Rule but by Law would prevent the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from issuing a "similar" Resolution in the future.

That Restriction is one of the quirks of the CRA, which allows Congress to Disapprove and Roll Back any Rule issued by the Executive Branch within 60 Session days under an Expedited Process.

Given this Time Limit, Wednesday was the last day that Congress could use the CRA to Rescind Obama-era Rules, though Rules can still be changed either by the Agency issuing a new Rule or Congress passing a Law to change an existing Rule.

Promptly after the vote, the Department of Interior (DOI), which houses the BLM, announced that it intends to Suspend, Revise, or Rescind the Rule given its “significant regulatory burden that encumbers American energy production, economic growth and job creation.” The Rule had been listed for Review in President Trump’s March 28th, 2017, Executive Order on Energy Independence and Economic Growth.

“The vote today in the Senate doesn’t impact the Administration’s commitment to spurring investment in responsible energy development and ensuring smart regulatory protections,” said a DOI spokesperson.

But to Revise or Rescind the Rule, which is now in effect, the BLM will need to go through a lengthy Rulemaking Process.

The BLM’s stated intent in Issuing the Rule was to reduce Waste of Natural Gas from Flaring, Venting, and Leaks from Oil and Gas (O&G) Production operations on Public and Indian Lands. Under the Rule, O&G Producers must take “commonsense and cost-effective measures” in line with Industry Technological advances that Reduce Losses of valuable Natural Gas that can produce Revenue for Taxpayers.

The Rule was heavily criticized by Industry, which claims it duplicates state Requirements. Opponents also argued that the real intent of the Rule is to control emissions of Methane, a major Greenhouse Gas (GHG). This, they claimed, made the Rule an Air Regulation, which should be the work of the EPA and is outside the authority of the BLM.

“Improving the control of methane emissions is an important public health and air quality issue, which is why some states are moving forward with their own regulations requiring greater investment in recapture technology,” said Senator John McCain (R-AZ). McCain was joined by Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Susan Collins (R-ME) in Opposing the Resolution.

“I join the call for strong action to reduce pollution from venting, flaring and leaks associated with O&G production operations on public and Indian land,” McCain continued. “While I am concerned that the BLM rule may be onerous, passage of the resolution would have prevented the federal government, under any administration, from issuing a rule that is ‘similar,’ according to the plain reading of the Congressional Review Act. I believe that the public interest is best served if the Interior Department issues a new rule to revise and improve the BLM methane rule. I look forward to working with my colleagues who voted to proceed to the resolution today.”

Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), one of the Resolution’s Sponsors urged quick action by the DOI.

“I call on Interior Secretary Zinke to withdraw the rule immediately,” said Barrasso. “If left in place, this regulation will only discourage energy production, job creation, and economic opportunity across the West. The state of Wyoming and other leading energy producing states already regulate methane emissions. We don’t need this duplicative rule.”

Across the aisle, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) said “rejecting this Republican attempt to allow O&G companies to continue wasting natural gas owned by the American people will ensure that American taxpayers will not get burned. And it will ensure that we don’t lose control of managing methane emissions on public lands that contribute to climate change.”

Markey has introduced the FLARE Act, which would Direct the DOI to issue Regulations to Reduce the Venting and Flaring of Natural Gas on Public lands and ensure that Taxpayers are Compensated for this Resource that they Own.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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