The U.S. House of Representatives will soon vote on measures to scrap two contentious environmental regulations put in place late in the Obama administration, the chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources said Jan. 27.
Speaking on a conference call, U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said two joint resolutions of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act will be brought to the House floor Jan. 30 calling for the rollback of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement's Stream Protection Rule, implemented December 2016, and the Bureau of Land Management's Venting and Flaring Rule, implemented in November 2016.
The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to overturn federal rules finalized within the last 60 legislative days with just a simple majority of votes in the U.S. House and Senate. Disapproval resolutions, if enacted, also prevent agencies from crafting substantially similar rules in the future. The GOP controls both the House and U.S. Senate and President Donal Trump has said he wants to toss regulations the energy sector views as burdensome.
Bishop said Congress was required to move against the measures because the orders were not in line with congressional intent. "It's our responsibility to act," he said.
Those supporting Bishop's moves joined the call to give their opinions on why the two rules should be rolled back. Gregory Conrad, the executive director of the Interstate Mining Compact Commission, said the OSM ignored state regulators entirely in developing and implementing the Stream Protection Rule.
"While states tried to engage with OSM, OSM blocked the states out and came up with a rule that's unrecognizable," he said. "It's an inflexible national approach that is unworkable from a state's perspective."
Kathleen Sgamma of the Western Energy Alliance said the flaring and venting rule was "cut and pasted" from a similar EPA regulation and was an example of the BLM overstepping its bounds. "BLM's rule is clearly an overreach over their authority," she said. "This rule is too costly and overreaches BLM's statutory authority."
Sgamma said methane emissions from oil and gas drilling have dropped 21% since 1990 while natural gas production has increased 47%. That decrease, she said, was due to industry efforts and not BLM's rule-making. "We are reducing emissions. We are doing it with technological improvements, not regulations," she said.
Environmental groups quickly condemned the moves to nix the two regulations, with EarthJustice calling the Congressional Review Act a "back door tactic."
"Voters didn't vote against clean air or clean water in the last election. In spite of this, Republican leaders in Congress are targeting communities threatened by water pollution from coal-mining operations and air pollution from oil and gas drilling operations as an early priority in 2017," EarthJustice President Trip Van Noppen said in an emailed statement. "Voters strongly support health and safety regulations like the ones being targeted today. Members of Congress who would seek to do the bidding of powerful corporate polluters instead of protecting the health and well-being of their constituents should be on notice: public interest groups across the spectrum … will be fighting against these anti-democratic and dangerous attempts to undo the protections that keep Americans safe and healthy."