Potential Congressional Action on Methane Rule

Legislative, NSWA Legislative ReportLeave a Comment

Chris Kearney | NSWA Vice President, Governmental Affairs

With the support of Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Angus King (I-ME) have drafted a resolution of disapproval on the Trump Administration’s methane policy rule which is the first step in using the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which provides a process by which, with a simple majority vote, a federal regulation that has been finalized in the previous 60 legislative days – mid-August 2020 in this case – can be eliminated. A companion resolution in the US House has been introduced, led by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO).

The Heinrich CRA to overturn the EPA’s methane policy regulations would likely have limited short-term implications for oil and natural gas production because the underlying regulations of new facilities would remain in place. However, there are approximately one million existing facilities, roughly 750,000 which are small business operations, that would come under stricter regulation.  

Of note, the CRA resolution does not address the methane technical rule – issued at the same time as the policy rule – which provides an “off ramp” exemption for low carbon producers, including stripper wells. 

Leader Schumer has indicated a vote on the resolution can be expected sometime after the Senate returns from its Easter Break in mid-April.

Action on Climate Change Legislation Continues

The US House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee Leadership recently re-introduced the 900+ page Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act, which calls for the U.S. to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2050. The measure (bill text here and a section-by-section here) a comprehensive proposal of sector-specific and economy-wide solutions to address the climate crisis.

Of note, it also includes a nationwide Clean Electricity Standard (CES) requiring all retail electricity suppliers to obtain 100% clean electricity by 2035, in line with President Biden’s call to action for the power sector. The CES mandates that all retail electricity suppliers provide an increasing supply of clean electricity to consumers starting in 2023, rising to 80% clean by 2030, and then 100% clean by 2035.

The bill also highlights the importance of clean energy, distributed energy resources, grid infrastructure, and microgrids – all of which build resiliency and are aimed at reducing carbon pollution. In addition, it allows the federal government to expedite buildout of electricity transmission systems to achieve clean energy goals

Recently, in the second in a series, the committee held a hearing on various aspects of the bill, with a particular focus on the issue of grid reliability in wake of the weather event in Texas and the bill’s related benefits. Hearings are expected after the Easter Break in mid-April, with at least two focusing on the bill’s directive of a nationwide Clean Energy Standard by 2035.

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