By Alexander C. Kaufman
Republicans’ bid to roll back an Obama-era rule limiting methane emissions from drilling rigs on public lands narrowly lost in the Senate on Wednesday after three GOP senators voted against the repeal.
In a 49-51 vote, the Senate preserved the rule, strengthened after last November’s election, that limited the amount of the powerful greenhouse gas methane that can be vented and burned from oil and gas extraction sites on federal lands.
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) were expected to vote against the rule, but the surprise defection of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) helped tilt the scales on a vote environmentalists are hailing as a rare victory over President Donald Trump’s assault on policies that address climate change.
“Improving the control of methane emissions is an important public health and air quality issue, which is why some states are moving forward with their own regulations requiring greater investment in recapture technology,” McCain said in a statement. “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,’ according to the plain reading of the Congressional Review Act.”