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Coal mine streams rule, Interior methane restrictions 'ripe' for GOP review

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Coal mine streams rule, Interior methane restrictions 'ripe' for GOP review

U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said the Interior Department's Stream Protection Rule and recently finalized methane rule for oil and gas producers will be the target of Congressional Review Act challenges following Donald Trump's presidential victory in November.

Lee spoke alongside other GOP lawmakers at a Dec. 8 energy and climate policy summit co-hosted by the Heritage Foundation and Texas Public Policy Foundation in Washington, D.C. Trump's presidential win has emboldened congressional Republicans ready to wrestle authority from federal agencies, including on energy and climate policy. GOP lawmakers have spent recent years trying to block many of the Obama administration's regulations for the energy sector and now want to strengthen Congress' hand in shaping energy policy.

"I can't wait for this Obama show to come to an end," Lee said.

The Utah lawmaker, whose home state is one of the biggest producers of U.S. coal, said Trump should use his executive authority to undo policies such as the U.S. Interior Department's temporary moratorium on new federal coal leases.

In addition, Lee said Congress can use the Congressional Review Act to overturn recently finalized rules, and pass legislation such as the Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny Act, or REINS Act. That measure would require Congress to approve any new federal regulation that carries significant costs before the rule can take effect.

Lee highlighted two rules that were "ripe for review" under the Congressional Review Act: the Stream Protection Rule being finalized by the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's rule to limit methane from oil and gas operations on public lands. Both OSMRE and BLM are part of Interior. The CRA allows Congress to overturn rules finalized within the past 60 legislative days.

Lee said he would "work tirelessly" to ensure CRA reviews for the two regulations. Those efforts will be part of the GOP's strategy to "undo the damage by this administration," U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, told attendees at the Dec. 8 policy summit.

"For the first time in eight years, [we] can look forward to a friend in the White House," Smith said, adding that "President Obama chose to circumvent Congress at every step."