Win for Environmentalists: Senate Keeps an Obama-Era Climate Change Rule Limiting Methane Emissions
May 12, 2017
The New York Times & EarthJustice & The League of Conservation Voters
In a surprising victory for President Barack Obama's environmental legacy, a bipartisan majority of pro-environment allies in the US Senate voted 51 to 49 to block consideration of a resolution to repeal the 2016 Interior Department rule to curb emissions of methane, a powerful planet-warming greenhouse gas. Also blocked: planned GOP-backed reductions in the EPA budget designed to gut clean energy funding and use the funds to build Donald Trump's border wall.
In Win for Environmentalists,
Senate Keeps an Obama-Era Climate Change Rule
Coral Davenport / The New York Times
WASHINGTON (May 10, 2017) -- In a surprising victory for President Barack Obama's environmental legacy, the Senate voted on Wednesday to uphold an Obama-era climate change regulation to control the release of methane from oil and gas wells on public land.
Senators voted 51 to 49 to block consideration of a resolution to repeal the 2016 Interior Department rule to curb emissions of methane, a powerful planet-warming greenhouse gas. Senators John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine, all Republicans who have expressed concern about climate change and backed legislation to tackle the issue, broke with their party to join Democrats and defeat the resolution.
The vote also was the first, and probably the only, defeat of a stream of resolutions over the last four months -- pursued through the once-obscure Congressional Review Act -- to unwind regulations approved late in the Obama administration.
It also could worsen the Trump administration's problems on Capitol Hill, where there are signs the president's grip on his party is loosening.
"People of America and people of the world can breathe a sigh of relief," said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader.
In anticipation of Republican defections, President Trump sent Vice President Mike Pence to the Senate floor to break a tie vote. But with three members of his own party breaking away, Mr. Pence could do nothing.
"We were surprised and thrilled to win on this," said Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president of the League of Conservation Voters, which, along with other environmental groups, has been lobbying Republicans for weeks to vote against the repeal of the methane rule. "This is clearly a huge win for our health and our climate."
While Ms. Collins and Mr. Graham had publicly announced their opposition to the measure, Mr. McCain's vote was a surprise.
It came as Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, was advancing the nomination of the trade lawyer Robert Lighthizer to be the United States trade representative. Mr. Lighthizer harshly criticized Mr. McCain during the senator's 2008 presidential campaign, saying his free-trade views were not in the best traditions of American conservatism.
Mr. McCain has since sought to block Mr. Lighthizer's nomination, objecting to a waiver granted to him to skirt the president's prohibition on lobbyists serving in his cabinet.
Mr. McCain also was the target of significant lobbying on the climate issue. Last week, a group of retired generals from the liberal Vet Voice Foundation sent a letter to all senators, framing the rollback of the methane regulation as a national security threat.
The group said the venting of the emissions from fuel wells could diminish the natural gas supply. Mr. McCain, who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has spoken of climate change and the energy supply as a national security issue.
Oil lobbyists pressed their case that the methane rule was onerous and duplicative, since many oil-producing states already have state-level methane regulations.
On Tuesday, Gwen Lachelt, a county commissioner from La Plata County, Colo., which sits near the Four Corners where the state abuts New Mexico, Utah and Arizona, buttonholed Mr. McCain in a Senate elevator to tell him that county residents have suffered from methane pollution drifting over from New Mexico, and she noted that the same pollution could affect his state.
"I'm not taking credit for swaying Senator McCain's vote, but I told him that right across the state line from my county are 35,000 oil and gas wells in New Mexico," she said. "We all share an airshed and the winds that bring methane pollution our way, and without this federal rule, I have no way as a county commissioner to protect the people in my county. In the Four Corners, we all live under the largest methane cloud."
VICTORY: Major Win for Clear Air in the Senate
Jessica Ennis / Earth Justice
(May 10, 2017) -- Yesterday we won a huge victory in the Senate for clean air, public health and our shared climate -- and we couldn't have done it without Earthjustice supporters like you.
Communities across the country can breathe easier after a backdoor attack on the Bureau of Land Management's Methane Waste Rule failed by a narrow 49-51 vote.
All year, anti-environment extremists in the Senate have stumbled in their attempts to repeal commonsense clean air and climate protections. And all year, Earthjustice supporters have fought back every step of the way, making thousands of phone calls and sending over 40,000 emails opposing the rollbacks.
Methane is the second-biggest driver of climate change. Reining in methane pollution will help to mitigate the worst effects of climate change -- from droughts and wildfires to sea-level rise and flooding. If this rule had been repealed, it would have had a horrible impact on our health and our environment.
This victory shows that regardless of what President Trump thinks, he doesn't have a mandate to destroy our environmental safeguards. Our communities and our air should never be sacrificed for dirty industry profit.
Yesterday proved we can win -- but the fight is far from over. Our national monuments are still under attack, life-saving chemical safety measures are on the chopping block, and our bedrock environmental laws face existential threats. We're proud to celebrate this victory with you as we prepare for the fights ahead, together.
Jessica Ennis is Earth Justice's Senor Legislative Representative
Senate Democrats Defeat Anti-environment Budget Attacks
Vinnie Wishrad / The League of Conservation Voters Action Fund
A pro-environment firewall in the Senate is the only thing that has been able to stop Trump's polluter agenda so far. Environmental allies in swing states are still in serious jeopardy.
(May 11, 2017) -- Last week, a few key senators helped avert a major disaster -- and successfully passed a spending deal that stripped out Trump's top priorities.
They rejected Trump's dangerous calls to gut the EPA's budget, clean energy funding, and regional clean water programs. They also blocked funding for Trump's border wall, which would have catastrophic impacts on both communities and wildlife.
Just yesterday, we scored a major victory for our health, clean air, and our climate when the Senate rejected a bid to permanently block commonsense protections against methane pollution.
This ONLY happened because swing-state senators stepped up big. And now they have HUGE targets on their backs.
Senators like Tammy Baldwin, Sherrod Brown, and Bob Casey just helped outsmart Trump -- but they're facing tight races. We can't afford to lose any of them in 2018.
Baldwin, Brown, and Casey are guaranteed to be among Big Polluters' next targets. You can donate to their campaigns through GiveGreen.
In Wisconsin, multiple candidates are vying to win the nomination to take on Senator Tammy Baldwin. Trump carried Wisconsin in 2016 and many Republicans see Baldwin as a prime target for takeout.
Meanwhile in Ohio, State Treasurer Josh Mandel is challenging Senator Sherrod Brown in a reprise of their 2012 race. While Brown won in 2012, Trump carried the presidential race in Ohio in 2016, and on the environment Mandel and Trump are cut from the same cloth. Unbelievably, Mandel has referred to climate change research as "riddled with fraud."
And in Pennsylvania, which in 2016 went for Trump by a narrow margin and reelected polluter ally Pat Toomey to the Senate, Big Polluters see another strong opportunity to damage the pro-environment firewall. With opponents already jumping into the Republican primary, Senator Casey is in for a long fight -- and he can't do it without early support.
The next two years will be difficult, but these champs are standing up to Big Polluters and are fighting to defend the EPA, our air, our drinking water, and our climate. Can you help Baldwin, Brown, and Casey shore up their defenses? Please, help hold the Senate firewall by donating to their campaigns today. Let them know you stand with them.
Vinnie Wishrad is the LCV's Senior Vice President, Membership and Online Engagement.