White House Calls For Senate Action On CRA Motions, Including Repeal of Obama Methane Rule
The Trump White House has urged the U.S. Senate to quickly pass a number of repeal measures against last-minute Obama administration regulations, including a rule targeting oil and natural gas development on federal lands.
Time is running out to strike down the Obama administration’s midnight regulations using the Congressional Review Act (CRA), White House legislative affairs director Marc Short told reporters yesterday. Roughly a dozen CRA repeal measures have passed Congress and then signed into law, Short said. “[W]orking with House and Senate leadership, there are several more that we hope to sign before this window closes on April 28th,” Short said according to a transcript of the briefing.
The “venting and flaring” rule, finalized by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management late last year, targets oil and natural gas development on federal land. The Obama administration and environmental groups argued the new restrictions are needed to control methane emissions, but the last-minute regulation has angered officials across the West. They argue the rule unlawfully adds another layer of federal regulation to existing rules that are already working, and could prevent new oil and natural gas wells from being drilled and force others to close prematurely, limiting energy production and tax revenues.
The CRA gives Congress and the White House a limited period of time to repeal regulations imposed during the final months of former President Barack Obama’s term in office, Short said. According to the U.S. Senate’s Republican Policy Committee, the House has passed 15 CRA disapproval motions. Thirteen of those have also cleared the Senate, with two waiting to receive a vote in the upper chamber, including the measure to repeal the venting and flaring rule.
“They’re waiting for action in the Senate that we hope to receive to sign into law before the end of April,” Short said.
A broad coalition of state, tribal, local and business officials from western states support the repeal of the venting and flaring rule, including New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R), Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R), North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R), the Greater North Dakota Chamber, Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, Colorado Business Roundtable and Club 20, a coalition of local governments, tribes, businesses and citizens from Colorado’s Western Slope.
In a separate but related effort, the attorneys general of four states – Montana Wyoming, North Dakota and Texas – are trying to overturn the rule in court. But in response, environmental activist groups have mounted an aggressive defense of the venting and flaring rule. Through groups like the Western Leaders Network and the Western Values Project, activists who oppose drilling have argued the venting and flaring rule will lead to more energy production and tax revenue because more methane – the primary constituent of natural gas – will be captured.
But critics of the rule say just the opposite will occur: The extra red tape will block many wells from being drilled and force others to prematurely shut down due to higher costs, resulting in lower oil and gas production and less royalty revenue.
Officials seeking the repeal of the venting and flaring rule argue that the BLM can curb methane emissions more effectively by approving more pipelines to transport natural gas away from well sites to the markets where it can be sold. But new pipeline projects have been opposed by the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity and other “keep it in the ground” activist groups – the same groups that have called the venting and flaring rule “a positive step” towards ending fossil-fuel production on public lands completely.
Proponents of repealing venting and flaring rule also say the Obama administration ignored existing state and federal regulations and industry practices that are already doing the job, cutting methane emissions 21 percent below 1990 levels despite large increases in oil and natural gas production.
“The rule imposes higher costs and more red tape on energy companies who want to develop oil and gas on federal lands,” Jeff Wasden, president of the Colorado Business Roundtable, told Western Wire in February. “But the rule carries no environmental benefit,” he said.
“It will make it harder to drill new wells on federal land and the rule will shut down some existing wells too,” Wasden said. “That means less energy, less economic growth, and less tax revenue for communities across the West. It also means fewer jobs in one of the region’s most important economic sectors – energy.”