Congress Fails To Repeal Obama-Era Climate Rule After Three GOP Senators Rebel


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

Methane is 25 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Leonid Ikan/Shutterstock

Congress recently defied the whims of the President and voted to increase federal science funding pretty much across the board. Shortly afterwards, the House pushed through a disaster of a healthcare bill designed to replace the Affordable Care Act. It’s safe to say that the last few weeks have been a mixed bag.

So when it came to a vote on an Obama-era climate measure, one that is designed to limit methane emissions from oil and gas drilling, the money was on it being rescinded. However, as reported by Reuters, it wasn’t – and it was because three Republican Senators dissented and voted alongside the Democrats, 51-49 against.


This really doesn’t fit the pattern we’ve seen over the past few years, at least when it comes to the GOP. Trump, after all, just signed away plenty of climate change mitigation measures via executive order, and the Republican-dominated Congress has been keen to repeal as many environmental protection measures as possible.

Like many others, the methane emission restriction was put up for debate using the Congressional Review Act, which enables Congress to revoke federal legislation imposed in the last 60 days of government. When it comes to environmental policy, the parties usually vote along partisan lines, and seeing as the Republicans have majorities in both the House and Senate, they’ve got the advantage here.

And yet Senators John McCain, Susan Collins, and Lindsey Graham voted against the rule’s repeal. Thanks in part to their intervention, 180,000 tonnes of methane will no longer be entering the Earth’s atmosphere. Considering it’s a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide – albeit a short-lived one – this is great news for climate change advocates.

It’s not like the three of them have a strong record of environmentalism either. Their lifetime National Environmental Scorecards – calculated based on their voting records – are pretty dire. McCain is on 20 percent, and Graham is on 13 percent. Collins, to be fair, is on 65 percent.

McCain was one of the three dissenting GOP Senators. Christopher Halloran/Shutterstock

Perhaps, though, they are coming around to the cause. McCain, for his part, said in a statement that “improving the control of methane emissions is an important public health and air quality issue.”

“I join the call for strong action to reduce pollution from venting, flaring and leaks associated with oil and gas production operations on public and Indian land.” McCain said he prefers a revision of the current rule – the effort to repeal it, if successful, would set a dangerous precedent in disallowing them to try and protect the environment.

One other point worth mentioning, however, is that all three Senators are harsh critics of the President. There’s a chance that their defiance on this issue may not be entirely coincidental.


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