Senate Democrats are eyeing an obscure federal law as means to permanently overturn Trump-era regulations on methane, a chemical compound that makes up natural gas.
On Thursday, Sens. Angus King, Maine independent, and Martin Heinrich, New Mexico Democrat, introduced a resolution disapproving of limitations the Environmental Protection Agency placed on regulating methane emissions last August.
The Trump administration, in particular, scrapped burdensome emission standards and eased mandates that oil and natural gas producers install new technologies to prevent methane leaks.
Mr. Heinrich, a backer of the Green New Deal, said that reinstating “responsible methane emission standards” was “critical to confronting the climate crisis.”
The resolution is the initial step for Democrats to invoke the Congressional Review Act. The legislation allows Congress to discard federal regulations finalized within the previous 60 legislative days.
As part of the procedure, both the Senate and House of Representatives are required to pass the resolution of disapproval. Within the Senate, the resolution only requires a simple majority of 51 votes for passage. That fact has made the Congressional Review Act an attractive way to sidestep the filibuster, which requires at least 60 votes to end debate on a piece of legislation.
Furthermore, once the resolution is passed by Congress and signed by the president, federal agencies are prohibited from reissuing the same regulation or a rule similar in scope unless approved by Congress via legislation.
In the past, the Congressional Review Act has been used sparingly. Between its creation in 1996 and 2017, only one disapproval resolution was enacted.
During the first two years of the Trump administration, however, Republicans used the act frequently to repeal Obama-era regulations.
The GOP’s success drew criticism from Democrats back then, with Sen. Cory Booker, New Jersey Democrat, even introducing legislation to repeal the overall Act.