Thursday, May 11, 2017

Senate, with help from Republicans, votes to uphold Obama-era methane regulations

In a 51-49 count, the Senate on Wednesday voted to "uphold an Obama-era climate change regulation to control the release of methane from oil and gas wells on public land," Coral Davenport reports for The New York Times. Methane is 200 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2 but breaks down in the atmosphere much more quickly.

The Senate vote blocks "a resolution to repeal the 2016 Interior Department rule to curb emissions of methane," Davenport writes. The vote was actually decided by Republicans, with Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine breaking with their party.

Votes by Graham and Collins were expected, but McCain's came as a surprise, Davenport notes. President Trump had sent Vice President Mike Pence to the Senate floor in anticipation of needing him to be the deciding factor in case of a tie vote. McCain said of his vote: “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,” he wrote. “I join the call for strong action to reduce pollution from venting, flaring and leaks associated with oil and gas production operations on public and Indian land.”
Sen. John McCain (photo by Win McNamee, Getty Images)
McCain "did say he would support an effort by the Trump administration to rewrite the Obama rule," Davenport writes. "Had Congress repealed the Obama-era rule entirely, the administration would have been precluded from issuing any similar regulation under the terms of the Congressional Review Act."

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