The Senate tried to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows Congress to overturn recent executive orders, to strike down a regulation that places limits on the amount of methane that can be released from oil and gas drilling on federal lands.
But three Republican senators broke ranks and voted against a motion to proceed: John McCain, Lindsay Graham, and Susan Collins. Those defections tipped the scales to 51 votes in favor of keeping Obama’s methane limit.
According to The Hill’s Devin Henry, Vice President Pence was on his way to the Capitol to cast a tie-breaking vote on the CRA repeal, but McCain’s surprise no vote tipped the scales in the Democrats' favor.
Methane is the most significant human-caused greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide. While it doesn’t stay in the atmosphere as long as CO2, methane is much more damaging — the Environmental Defense Fund estimates it’s 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide after 20 years.
The EPA estimates that oil and gas companies release approximately 9.8 million metric tons of methane into the air annually. The regulations that the Senate voted to keep, however, only apply to drilling efforts on federal land.
Better than nothing.
This vote was the first time since Trump was elected that Republicans failed in an attempt to use the CRA to overturn Obama-era rules. The time period in which Congress can use the CRA to roll back regulations is set to end at the end of this week.