- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Trump administration on Thursday essentially overruled the will of the Senate, moving to delay a methane-emissions rule the chamber voted to uphold six months ago.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management announced it will suspend the Waste Prevention Rule, more commonly known as the Venting and Flaring Rule, that would require drilling companies to capture methane emissions released as part of their operations.

The rule was put in place during the final days of the Obama administration. Thursday’s delay postpones implementation until January 2019.

“As we strengthen America’s energy independence, we need to make sure that regulations do not unnecessarily encumber energy production, constrain economic growth, or prevent job creation,” said Brian Steed, the Bureau’s deputy director for policy and programs. “By holding off on certain requirements, the BLM now has sufficient time to review the 2016 final rule while avoiding any compliance costs on industry that may not be needed after the review.”

Republican leaders in Congress tried to halt the rule earlier this year through the Congressional Review Act, which allows lawmakers to revisit rules and regulations recently put in place.

But in a shocking vote in May, three Republicans — Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. John McCain of Arizona — broke ranks and voted to uphold the rule.

At the time, the Interior Department said the vote “doesn’t impact” their plans moving forward with respect to addressing the regulation.

Critics blasted the move, and especially the fact that it conflicts with the Senate vote in May.

“Once again, we see Secretary Zinke and the Trump Administration catering to the most poorly operated companies in the oil and gas industry, at the expense of taxpayers and tribal communities and to the notable disadvantage of companies that are trying to reduce waste and operate responsibly,” said Matt Watson, associate vice president of climate and energy at the Environmental Defense Fund.

Industry leaders praised the decision.

“We’re pleased the Bureau of Land Management suspended an eleventh-hour Obama-era regulation aimed at shutting in marginal-producing wells, putting independent oil and gas producers, their livelihoods, and the considerable federal royalties generated from their businesses at jeopardy,” said Barry Russell, president and CEO of the Independent Petroleum Association of America.

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