No Excuses: The Senate Should Nullify Costly Methane Rule

For eight years, Republicans and a handful of Democrats in Congress railed against President Barack Obama’s job-destroying climate agenda, and rightfully so. The Obama administration launched an unprecedented effort to keep our most affordable and abundant resources under lock and key.

Now, with control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, Republicans have an opportunity to undo costly Obama-era regulations using the Congressional Review Act. Congress has already successfully used this tool to undo a handful of duplicative and costly regulations. Unfortunately, the Senate has stalled on a resolution that would save American jobs and protect households from higher energy costs.

In February, the House passed a CRA resolution to repeal a Bureau of Land Management regulation dealing with methane venting and flaring on federal lands. However, more than two months later, the Senate has failed to take up the resolution.

Passing this resolution should not be controversial, even for the Senate. The methane regulation is unnecessary, costly, and clearly outside of the BLM’s jurisdiction.

The stated purpose of the BLM’s regulation is to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas sector activity on federal lands. If this sounds like a noble objective, then I have good news for you — the industry is already reducing methane emissions, mainly because it makes good business sense to do so.

In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency found that methane emissions fell by 13 percent from 2011-2014. The EPA also found that methane emissions from hydraulic fracturing fell 81 percent between 2012 and 2014. This drop in methane emissions occurred even as U.S. oil and gas production significantly increased due to the shale revolution.

In spite of all of this good data, the Obama administration still forced this unnecessary, one-size-fits-all regulation down the throat of the oil and gas industry. Let’s see what else we’re getting for it.

The BLM’s methane regulation would come with a huge price tag. The American Action Forum estimates that the rule would cost roughly $1.8 billion dollars. Of course, the cost of complying with this regulation would ultimately fall to American consumers who will pay more for their energy.  The rule would also destroy tens of thousands of well-paying jobs.

For all its economic downsides, this regulation would only reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 0.0092 percent. In other words, this regulation is all pain for no gain.

Why then has the Senate failed to take up the CRA resolution?

Despite the overwhelming evidence against any need for this regulation, some senators, including Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), have yet to stake out a position on the CRA resolution.

Confusion seems to be the culprit. Some argue that the CRA is too “blunt,” claiming that it would preclude the BLM from promulgating a similar rule in the future. This fear is misplaced. The rule, as written, is meant to regulate methane emissions for air quality. However, the BLM only has the authority to regulate waste — the EPA regulates air quality and already has a methane regulation. The BLM is clearly far afield from its jurisdiction.

Furthermore, the CRA does not preclude Congress from taking action in the future. The law states that a rule “may not be reissued in substantially the same form, and a new rule that is substantially the same as such a rule may not be issued, unless the reissued or new rule is specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of the joint resolution disapproving the original rule.”

Approving this CRA will not only stop a harmful and unnecessary regulation from taking effect but will also empower Congress to act in the future should they deem it necessary. Every Senator, regardless of party, should agree this is far superior to bureaucratic overreach.

Other Senators worry about a “fair return to taxpayers” on royalty payments. This argument holds no water. As I’ve noted, producers want to capture as much methane as they can so they can sell it. This rule will only increase costs, which will drive down production, thus leading to fewer royalty payments.

It’s time for those who spoke out against the excesses of President Obama’s climate agenda to prove that their opposition was more than just empty rhetoric. The Senate should immediately vote on the CRA resolution to repeal the BLM’s costly and misguided methane regulation.

Thomas Pyle is president of the American Energy Alliance.

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