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Senate rejects GOP effort to repeal Obama anti-pollution rule

Wednesday was the first time under President Trump that an effort to repeal via the Congressional Review Act failed.

By
Doug G. Ware
A natural gas well in North Dakota emits, or flares, emissions into the atmosphere as part of the resources drilling process. The Senate voted Wednesday to kill a GOP effort to repeal a new rule that limits the amount of methane gas that can be flared on federal land. File Photo by Steve Oehlenschlager/Shutterstock
A natural gas well in North Dakota emits, or "flares," emissions into the atmosphere as part of the resources drilling process. The Senate voted Wednesday to kill a GOP effort to repeal a new rule that limits the amount of methane gas that can be flared on federal land. File Photo by Steve Oehlenschlager/Shutterstock

May 10 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday to kill another GOP effort that was aimed at stimulating U.S. energy independence by scrapping an Obama-era environmental regulation.

The upper chamber voted 51-49 to reject House Joint Resolution 36, a proposal to nix a new federal limit on how much methane gas may be emitted into the atmosphere in drilling on public land.

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The Bureau of Land Management rule, implemented shortly before former President Barack Obama left office, was part of the previous administration's efforts to get a handle on climate change.

Because Trump has ordered similar moves and Republicans have backed them, Wednesday's defeat was a surprise to many observers.

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Under the Congressional Review Act, federal lawmakers can remove any new rule provided that's done within the regulation's first 60 days. That deadline for the methane rule will arrive Friday.

"Less than 48 hours before the end of the Congressional Review Act carryover period, Senate Republicans couldn't resist trying to sneak through one more special favor for their corporate donors," Robert Weissman, president of the watchdog Public Citizen, said in a statement. "Instead, common sense prevailed."

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Methane, scientists say, accelerates climate change and Obama's administration said in issuing the new rule that it would prevent 180,000 tons of methane from being emitted into the atmosphere.

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"One good thing today: We defeated [the] GOP plan to greatly increase methane pollution," Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., tweeted Wednesday. "MAJOR win for our planet and health."

All Senate Democrats and three Republicans voted to kill the repeal. The GOP members who opposed it were Sens. Susan Collins, R-Me., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and John McCain, R-Ariz.

"Today is a victory for our public lands and for the health of families across America, and a defeat for Donald Trump, corporate polluters, and their friends on Capitol Hill," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said. "No matter how much corporate polluters and their allies in the White House and Capitol Hill rant and rave, they will never drown out the voices of millions of Americans."

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Wednesday marked the first time since Trump took office that a repeal attempt under the CRA failed. Thirteen previous efforts -- including repeals of Obama-era efforts on fuel efficiency and national monuments -- all passed.

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The House easily passed the repeal in January and the Senate sat on it for two months before voting.

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