Top Republican Says Senate Poised To Repeal Obama Methane Rule Next Week
The chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee expressed confidence he has the votes needed to pass a measure on the Senate floor next week repealing a last-minute Obama administration rule targeting oil and natural gas development on public and tribal lands.
“It’s duplicative, unnecessary, expensive, and we’ll pass [a Congressional Review Act resolution] next week,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told Bloomberg BNA on May 2.
The “venting and flaring” rule, issued by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management two months before President Barack Obama left office, has been controversial across the West. Four states – Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota and Texas – have sued the BLM to stop the rule, and Western lawmakers are leading an effort to repeal the regulation using the CRA. A repeal measure passed the House in February and is now before the Senate.
Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Dean Heller (R-N.D.) are undecided on the issue, according to a Politico report this morning. Western Wire reached out yesterday to Heitkamp’s staff, who confirmed the senator remains undecided.
Some of the key organizations involved in pushing for the CRA have expressed confidence there will be a vote next week.
“Sen. Barrasso has been clear that he wants a vote on the methane rule before the CRA opportunity expires on May 11,” Robert Dillon, American Council for Capital Formation vice president of communications, said in a comment to Western Wire yesterday. “He’s put a lot of effort into this issue so I expect Senate leadership will give him a vote next week.”
Barrasso’s comments echo those of Western state and local officials, tribes, and business groups that have urged repeal of the rule, arguing that it adds another layer of federal regulation to existing rules that are already working. They also are concerned that the rule would prevent new oil and natural gas wells from being drilled and force others to close prematurely, limiting energy production and tax revenues.
The venting and flaring rule has angered officials from across the West, 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 the Western Slope.
“This God-awful rule is aimed right at North Dakota,” Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said in a March statement, urging the Senate to repeal the rule.
Cramer’s colleague in the Senate, Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) said the rule was “duplicative, unworkable and will hamper job creation and economic growth in North Dakota” in a statement to Western Wire in March. “We need to pass this CRA and get to work on initiatives that will actually help our nation to produce more energy with good environmental stewardship.” Those initiatives include “encouraging investment in natural gas gathering systems on public lands to help reduce flaring,” he said.
“We are hoping Senator Heitkamp, as a conservative Democrat and one who understands the energy industry, will vote with us,” Andy Peterson, president of the Greater North Dakota Chamber, told Western Wire in February.
Sen. Gardner told reporters this week that he continues to weigh the pros and cons of the CRA resolution. “I want to make sure I’m taking into account opinions on both sides[,] both the support, the pro, and the cons of this so I’ll continue to hear those conversations,” he told Bloomberg BNA on May 2. “You know, Colorado has a really strong rule in place and I think that’s an important factor in this discussion as well.”
“There are people on both sides of this,” Gardner said in February. “A tremendous amount of people who live on the western slope of Colorado who are supportive of the resolution of disapproval — people in Grand Junction, Colo., the Grand Junction Chamber, the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, the Colorado Business Roundtable all support the resolution of disapproval.”
In a comment to Western Wire that month, Gardner also noted the primacy of state regulations over federal mandates. Referring to methane regulations Colorado developed in partnership with local stakeholders and industry, the senator touted the state’s “history of working out unique solutions tailor-made to meet the needs of our state” – solutions that will remain in effect even if the federal rule is overturned.
Groups inside the Beltway have also been rallying for passage of the CRA resolution. On Tuesday, eleven free-market organizations, including the American Council for Capital Formation, American Energy Alliance, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, wrote a letter to senators, urging them to support the CRA. “The American people expect you to promote pro-growth policies that support affordable energy, jobs, and economic freedom,” the letter said. “The BLM methane rule is not one of those policies. H.J. Res. 36 must be undone, and the CRA is the ideal method for doing so.”
The window to pass CRA resolutions closes on May 11.