It failed thanks to three Republicans voting against the overturn of the methane rule, and you can probably guess who the three are: John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins. Thanks to their efforts, there is less incentive to pursue domestic energy.
The vote is a major loss for congressional Republicans, who had targeted the methane rule as a prime Obama regulation to undo. They argue that it unnecessarily adds costs to oil and natural gas drilling on federal land.
But it is a big victory for environmentalists, who in recent weeks put up a comprehensive fight to sway vulnerable and moderate senators against the repeal.
The vote was the Senate GOP’s last chance to overturn an Obama rule through the CRA, which provides a streamlined method for blocking regulations, but sets a time limit on when Congress can vote.
The methane rule sets standards for what oil and natural gas drillers on federal land must do to stop the waste of methane, the key component of natural gas, through venting or burning it at the well site.
It is primarily designed to prevent the waste of a valuable resource that belongs to taxpayers. But since methane is a greenhouse gas as much as 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide, the rule also has climate change benefits.
If one of these three clowns – McCain was the one the leadership was expected – had voted for the overturn of the rule, Vice President Mike Pence was available to break the tie. But of course we can’t count on John McCain to support conservative policies or overturn leftist ones.
Obama’s methane rule was a completely unnecessary waste of private sector resources. It was one of his last-minute “F You” regulatory overreaches issued after the Democrats lost the 2016 election. He used the Bureau of Land Management to promulgate the rule, after it was initially kicked around as an EPA regulation. Back when it was going to be an EPA thing, Americans for Tax Reform took a knife to it and called it “regulation for regulation’s sake.”
According to the President’s own EPA, the U.S. natural gas industry has successfully cut methane emissions by 11 percent in recent years, even as gas production has increased 44%. During that same period methane emissions from hydraulically fractured natural gas wells are down 79 percent.
The industry has accomplished these reductions through investment and innovation in new technology. Because of such innovation, researchers estimate that less than 2% of methane is lost during natural gas production.
However by seeking to impose new methane rules on the industry, the President and EPA will effectively deter further innovation and improvement by the energy industry. Such government overreach and intervention in the market will interrupt the drive to continue these advances by diverting attention away from innovation back towards regulatory compliance.
The energy industry is complex and varies greatly across different operations. The industry’s efforts to reduce methane emissions, without directly regulating methane, dwarf the emission reductions EPA has estimated in their rules. The bureaucrats at the EPA simply cannot match the expertise and knowledge of industry experts.
That’s what McCain, Collins and Graham voted to preserve.
We’ve said for a long time that John McCain has done more damage to the Republican brand than anyone in the last half-century, and when he’s finally gone from the political scene the GOP will finally have a chance to learn how to get out of its own way.
Until that time, accomplishing anything of value is more or less hopeless. And it will take a pine box to make that man leave the U.S. Senate.