climate change

In a major win for the climate, the US Senate reverses Trump methane ruling

Gas flaring in Harris County, Texas. Photo credit: Jim Evans – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0 – via Wikimedia.

By Anders Lorenzen

Chuck Schumer, US Senate majority leader, called it a major victory for action on climate change. With a 52-42 vote in favour of the measure, including three Republican senators voting with Democrats, a major climate and environmental victory was achieved when they approved a measure that would restore the regulation of methane, the second most potent greenhouse gas (GHG) after CO2.

First of many important steps

Schumer, a Democrat, explained that the passing of this bill would help the Biden Administration carry out its ambitious emission reduction plans during the next decade.

“This is the first of many important steps the Senate will take” to achieve President Joe Biden‘s climate goals, he said.

Together with fellow Democrats Martin Heinrich and Ed Markey, as well as Independent Angus King, Schumer introduced the resolution in the Senate under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), a 1996 law which allows Congress to reverse federal rules implemented in the last days of a past administration with a simple majority.

Most important vote this decade

King commented: “I believe this is the most important environmental vote of this decade.”

The crucial bill will reinstate the 2012 and 2016 Oil and Natural Gas New Source Performance Standards set by the Obama Administration that govern oil production and processing.

Senator Heinrich, the Senate lead sponsor of the bill and a member of the chamber’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, explained that restoring those rules, which targeted methane leaks from new wells as well as pipelines, will capture the “lion’s share” of methane emissions and would deliver quick results in ratcheting down emissions.

Methane, a potent but short lived GHG, is about 100 times as powerful as CO2 but only stays in the atmosphere for approx 12 years where CO2 can linger between 300 – 1,000 years. The oil and gas industry is the largest emitter of methane, in particular through gas flaring and methane leaks. Gas flaring is used on oil and gas extraction sites as well as refineries, chemical plants and natural gas processing plants. Campaigners have called for a tightening of the rules and outlawing the practice. 

During Donald Trump’s four years as president, he managed to undo many of the Obama Administration’s climate, environmental and energy laws and regulations. Climate advocates and campaigners will be hoping this is just one of many reversals.

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