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The Senate just rejected a repeal of an Obama-era rule to limit methane emissions

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The Interior Department could still nix it through a longer review process that could take years

Senate Lawmakers Attend Briefing On North Korea At The White House
Sen. John McCain surprisingly voted against the repeal
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

For the first time since President Donald Trump took office, Republicans voted down a resolution to repeal a rule passed under President Barack Obama. In a 51 to 49 vote, the Senate rejected an effort to strike down an environmental regulation aimed at limiting methane emissions from oil and gas drilling on public lands.

The rule was issued by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management in November 2016. It targeted methane, a potent greenhouse gas that accounted for about 10 percent of all US greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in 2015. The Obama administration estimated that the rule would cut methane emissions by roughly 180,000 tons a year, according to The Washington Post. But opposers argued the regulation was costly and unnecessary.

Republican lawmakers were trying to repeal the methane emission rule under the Congressional Review Act, a 1996 law that allows Congress to overturn rules within 60 legislative days of their adoption. President Trump has signed 13 CRA resolutions into law this year, more than any other president, according to The Hill. Today’s defeat is the only CRA resolution under Trump to have failed. Because of the law’s strict time limit, it also represented the GOP’s last chance to repeal the Obama-era methane rule under the CRA.

Three Republican senators — Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Susan Collins (R-ME), and John McCain (R-AZ) — joined all 48 Democrats in voting down the resolution, thus failing to reach the 51 votes needed to repeal it. McCain’s vote came as a surprise, according to The Hill.

“While I am concerned that the BML rule may be onerous, passage of the resolution would have prevented the federal government, under any administration, from issuing a rule that is ‘similar,’ according to the plain reading of the Congressional Review Act,” McCain said in a statement. “I believe that the public interest is best served if the Interior Department issues a new rule to revise and improve the BLM methane rule.”

Even if today’s attempt at repealing the rule failed, the Interior Department can still nix the rule through a longer review process that could take years to finalize.