Surprising Senate Vote Just Saved One Of Obama’s Climate Regulations

In an unexpected breeze, the U.S. Senate voted 51-49 on Wednesday to support in location an environmental regulation designed to limit emissions of a potent greenhouse gas.

Set by the Obama administration in November 2016, the regulation to limit methane emissions on public and tribal lands faced stiff opposition from oil and gas producers, the Trump White House, and conservative lawmakers, even though polling suggests it enjoys overwhelming support in the western states most affected by the rule. Three Republican senators joined whole 48 Democrats and independents to support the regulation in location.

The rule requires energy companies to update their drilling technologies — some of which are decades used — to play down emissions of methane gas through accidental leaking or venting into the air. Gas producers also wouldn’t be allowed to burn unusable or excess gas, a process known as flaring. The Obama-era Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management developed the rule to protect public and tribal lands as well as to limit greenhouse gas emissions more broadly.

The Trump administration had thought Congress would execute the rule, under a law that allows it to review current regulations published at the very cessation of a president’s term. Before Donald Trump’s inauguration, this provision was itsy-bitsy-used, but Trump and Congress fill used the Congressional Review Act to eliminate 13 different Obama-era initiatives. The House has already voted to overturn the methane rule on February 3.

The methane regulation is particularly indispensable in the West, where the majority of gas extraction occurs and public and tribal lands are particularly widespread. A December 2016 poll from Colorado College of seven Rocky Mountain states — Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, current Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming — found that 81 percent of respondents favored keeping the methane regulation in location, with Republicans and independents actually slightly more supportive of the regulation than Democrats.

Despite this, of those states’ nine Republican senators, only Arizona’s John McCain ultimately voted to support it. South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham and Maine’s Susan Collins were the other dissenting Republicans. McCain’s vote — and, with it, the rule’s reprieve — was a surprise, as reports main up to Tuesday’s vote had not listed him among the undecided senators.

In surprise defeat, GOP-controlled Senate fails to pass degree repealing Obama rule cutting methane emissions in 49-51 vote.

— Amy Harder (@AmyAHarder) May 10, 2017

I know we’re whole talking approximately Comey, but – particularly as a former energy nerd – that failed Senate methane vote was a bit shocking.

— Elana Schor (@eschor) May 10, 2017

Double steal: John McCain is a NO on proceeding to methane CRA.

— Alex Guillen (@alexcguillen) May 10, 2017

Methane CRA is DEAD, 49-51. Enviros fill an strange and unexpected senator to thank for that win: @SenJohnMcCain

— Alex Guillen (@alexcguillen) May 10, 2017

It remains unclear what prompted the senator’s vote. An environmental reporter for southern Colorado’s Durango Herald reported the intervention of a local county commissioner made the disagreement.

Apparently La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt was instrumental in convincing John McCain to vote to retain methane waste rules

— Jonathan Romeo (@JonathanDHerald) May 10, 2017

Apparently La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt caught McCain in an elevator and convinced him that the rules were very imp for 4 Crnrs

— Jonathan Romeo (@JonathanDHerald) May 10, 2017

In any event, the regulation remains in location, assuming no further Republican legislative wrangling. The vote represents a rare defeat for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and an increasingly rare victory for the environment under Trump.

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