The Senate on Wednesday voted 52-42 to restore regulations on methane gas leaks in oil and gas production that the Trump administration had loosened last summer. Three Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), and Rob Portman (Ohio) — voted with the Democrats to overturn former President Donald Trump’s rule using the Congressional Review Act, a 1996 law that lets Congress kill recently adopted regulations. Curbing methane emissions is a key element of President Biden’s push to fight climate change.
The House has not yet voted to restore the methane rules, instituted by former President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency in 2016. The oil and gas industry had originally lobbied against the methane rules, which require oil and gas companies to monitor their equipment for leaking methane and repair any breaches. But many large oil and gas producers, and their main lobbying group the American Petroleum Institute, now support regulating methane emissions.
Methane is the main component of natural gas, and it drives more than 25 percent of global warming, mostly from leaks during the production and transportation of natural gas, The Wall Street Journal explains. “Combating methane emissions can create a more immediate effect than cutting carbon because methane is more than 80 times more potent than carbon over a 20-year period, although it degrades faster in the atmosphere compared to carbon, which lingers for 100 years.”
“Regulating methane is the low-hanging fruit of climate action,” said Sen. Angus King (I-Maine). “It’s the most significant immediate thing we can do.”