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The Hill: House votes to nix Trump methane rule

House votes to nix Trump methane rule

The House voted on Friday to get rid of a Trump administration rule that weakened regulation on a powerful greenhouse gas called methane.

The measure, passed by the House in a 229-191 vote, has already been approved by the Senate and will now head to the White House for President Biden's signature.

Twelve House Republicans voted with all Democrats to eliminate the Trump-era rule.

Lawmakers used a legislative tool called the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to get around a possible GOP filibuster in the Senate.

The CRA allows Congress to target recently promulgated regulations, and such votes can not be filibustered. Democrats in Congress this week also used the CRA to eliminate two other Trump-era rules dealing with lending and employment discrimination. 

The Trump-era methane rule rescinded standards aimed at limiting methane emissions from oil and gas production, processing, transmission and storage. 

By voting to get rid of it, the legislators voted to restore 2016 Obama-era regulations that required companies to capture methane leaks. 

The Trump rule also got rid of limits for substances called volatile organic compounds from oil and gas transmission and storage.

The rule was also expected to set up an additional hurdle for regulating air pollution by requiring the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine that a substance contributes “significantly” to air pollution before it can be regulated.

"Addressing methane is an urgent and essential step to mitigate climate change and the greatest and most cost-effective way to curb methane pollution over the next decade is through the fossil fuel sector," said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, in a floor speech ahead of the vote. 

"The Trump action was a thinly veiled attempt to block regulation of the worst oil and gas industry actors at the expense of our health, our safety and our planet," he added.

Methane is significantly more potent than carbon dioxide, though it doesn’t last as long in the atmosphere.

The EPA estimated that the Trump rule would have added 400,000 short tons of methane to the atmosphere through 2030. 

The vote to get rid of the Trump rule was backed not only by environmentalists, but also major players in the oil industry who say they support commonsense regulations on methane.

Opponents of the CRA effort, however, argued that the Obama methane rule would negatively impact small oil and gas producers.

"Small and medium-sized gas companies do not support this regulation," said Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) in a floor speech. "It's not because they're interested in polluting, it's because they don't want to be duplicatively regulated from the wellhead to the market."