U.S. Senate to Vote on Measure to Reverse Methane Rule Rollbacks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The U.S. Senate will vote on Wednesday on a measure to restore regulation of emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, a move that Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called a "big deal" in fighting climate change.

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

Democrats narrowly control both houses of Congress.

Heinrich, the Senate lead sponsor of the bill and a member of the chamber's Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told Reuters that restoring those rules, which targeted methane leaks from new wells as well as pipelines, capture the "lion's share" of methane emissions.

Schumer told reporters that passing the bill would help the Biden administration carry out its plans to slash U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by half over 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.

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

The Biden administration supports the passage of the bill, the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement on Tuesday.

Going forward, said Heinrich, whose home state of New Mexico is a big oil producer, more regulation of the short-lived greenhouse gas, which is at least 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide, will deliver quick results in ratcheting down emissions.

"If we can fix our methane problem, we can quickly turn down the climate-warming impacts," he said.

In recent days Republican Senator Susan Collins said she would support the CRA. Major oil and gas companies also signaled support for the measure, including BP, Shell, Cheniere and Occidental.

The CRA comes ahead of the release of a major United Nations report next week that will call for deep cuts in methane emissions to slow the rate of global warming and keep it beneath a threshold agreed by world leaders.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a recent interview that new methane rules, due by September, would likely exceed the goals of Obama-era regulations and play a significant role in helping the U.S. achieve its near-term climate goals.

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