The US Senate on 10 May rejected a resolution to revoke an Obama-era rule to limit methane emissions from oil and gas production on federal lands, dealing a blow to President Donald Trump’s efforts to free the drilling industry from what he sees as excessive environmental regulation.
The Congressional Review Act resolution received just 49 votes after Republican leaders scrambled for weeks to secure the 51 needed to pass it. The resolution would have revoked the rule and prevented similar regulations from being introduced.
Getting the Trump administration to repeal the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rule had been a top priority of the oil and gas industry. Companies said it was unnecessary and would could cost them tens of thousands of dollars per well and hinder production.
But not all Republicans supported the measure, in part because it would have made regulating methane waste more difficult in the future.
Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona made a surprise vote against the resolution, joining fellow Republicans Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine in opposition to torpedo it.
“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’,” McCain said in a statement.
He said the Interior Department should issue a new rule on to replace the existing one on methane leaks, which he called a public health and air quality issue.