Trump Rolled Back A Methane Emissions Rule. Now Rep. DeGette Is Helping Reinstate It

Miguel Otárola/CPR News
Inside the thermal oxidizer at the closed Elk Creek mine in the North Fork Valley on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. The oxidizer burns collected methane gas to create carbon dioxide, a less potent greenhouse gas.

Congress is one step closer to restoring tougher EPA regulations on methane emissions.

The Energy and Commerce committee voted on a joint resolution, introduced by Denver Rep. Diana DeGette, that would reverse a Trump Administration rollback of the EPA’s methane emissions rule.

The resolution of disapproval passed on a party line vote, 30-22, and now heads to the House floor. It passed the Senate in April, with the support of Colorado’s Senators and three GOP Senators who crossed the aisle.

Describing climate change as an “existential threat,” DeGette said one of steps Congress can take right now to deal with the problem is “to reduce the amount of methane that is being released into our atmosphere.” Methane is a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide.

DeGette said if the Trump era rule stays in place, methane emissions would increase by “nearly 1.6 million tons by 2025.” She also noted that it was not just environmental groups that opposed the Trump rule; some oil and natural gas companies were also against the move.

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Rep. Diana DeGette at the 2019 Martin Luther King Day Marade on Jan. 21.

“The very businesses that might benefit the most from the rollbacks spoke out against them and in support of methane regulation, like the rules we’re seeking to restore today,” DeGette told the committee.

Republicans oppose rule being reinstated

Many Republicans on the committee spoke out against reinstating the methane rule, arguing it just adds more regulations and will hurt America’s energy industry. They also said a federal rule would be duplicative because states and companies are already taking steps to reduce methane emissions.

“This is a solution that’s looking for a problem,” said GOP Rep. John Joyce of Pennsylvania. “The oil industry is already voluntarily reducing methane emissions. And the United States has led the world in reducing greenhouse green emissions in the last two decades.”

But Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher of Texas said restoring the rule was just common sense.  

“Natural gas has an important role to play in our fuel mix, now and in the future,” she said. “But it also requires extraction and transportation policies that recognize that methane leaks hurt climate goals and make American gas less competitive on the world market,” she said.

The Congressional Review Act lets Congress repeal rules that have been in place for a short amount of time. The joint resolution restores the methane waste prevention requirements that were put into place by the Obama administration.

DeGette has been working on different fronts to reduce methane waste. Earlier this year she introduced the Methane Waste Prevention Act that would set stricter limits on the amount of methane gas released into the atmosphere. The bill was voted out of the House Natural Resources Committee in April.