We all knew there was a possibility of last minute additions to the president’s executive order on energy and environmental policy – and that’s appears to be what happened with the decision to include methane restrictions under the broad call for agencies to review the policies of the previous administration.
But while President Trump included the methane in Tuesday’s EO, that action should not be construed to mean Sen. John Barrasso’s (R-Wyo.) Senate Joint Resolution 11 to nullify the Bureau of Land Management’s rule on the venting and flaring of methane is no longer needed.
The Congressional Review Act (CRA) process is still preferred.
Unraveling the methane rule at the agency level will require months of staff work and will undoubtedly face vigorous legal challenges from environmental groups that could delay it for up to two years. On the other hand, Senate passage of a disapproval resolution under the CRA would be quick and efficient, saving both the agency time and resources.
Senate Republican leaders remain committed to bringing up Sen. Barrasso’s resolution as soon as they have the votes. That whip operation continues.
A CRA resolution of disapproval requires a simple majority of 51 votes to pass the Senate, so a few members who remain, publically at least, undecided on SJ Res. 11, are key to its success. We’re thinking specifically here of Republican Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Cory Gardner of Colorado. But the support of Democrats Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia are also important.
BLM’s methane rule, which became effective Jan. 17, requires oil and natural gas producers to reduce gas lost through venting or flaring, and through equipment leaks. Unfortunately, the rule is duplicative, counterproductive, and poses a threat to job creation and economic growth in oil and gas producing states.
If the Senate does not move forward with repeal, BLM’s methane rule would affect some 96,000 oil and gas wells on federal and Indian lands, making up to 40 percent uneconomic and forcing them to be shut-in.
BLM’s onshore oil and gas management program is a major contributor to domestic production, accounting for 11 percent of U.S. gas production and 5 percent of the oil. However, natural gas production on federal land declined 18 percent between 2010 to 2015. Further reductions would represent a setback to U.S. efforts to reduce emissions.
The Senate is set to leave town for the two-week Easter recess next Friday. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky says he wants a vote on Supreme Court justice nominee Neil Gorsuch by that date, which will compete for floor time with other Republican priorities.
But there’s still time for SJ Res. 11. The Senate has until the week of May 8 to take advantage of the special fast-track provisions allowed under the CRA process to nullify the BLM methane rule by a simple majority vote.