Editor’s note: This story was updated at 4:10 a.m. CST April 29.
The U.S. Senate on April 28 approved a measure to restore regulation of emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, a move Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called a “big deal” in fighting climate change.
The Senate approved the measure in a 52-42 vote.
Schumer, along with fellow Democrats Martin Heinrich and Ed Markey and Independent Angus King, introduced their resolution in the Senate under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), a 1996 law that allows Congress to reverse federal rules implemented in the last days of a past administration with a simple majority.
Democrats narrowly control both houses of Congress. Three Republican senators also voted for the measure: Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham and Rob Portman
“I believe this is the most important environmental vote of this decade,” King, who caucuses with the Democrats, said at a news conference ahead of the vote.
Schumer told reporters that passing the bill would help the Biden administration carry out its plans to slash U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by half over the next decade.
“This is the first of many important steps the Senate will take” to achieve President Joe Biden’s climate goals, he said.
The bill would reinstate the 2012 and 2016 Oil and Natural Gas New Source Performance Standards set by the Obama administration that govern oil production and processing.
Heinrich, the Senate lead sponsor of the bill and a member of the chamber’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told Reuters that restoring those rules, which targeted methane leaks from new wells as well as pipelines, will capture the “lion’s share” of methane emissions.
Heinrich, whose home state of New Mexico is a big oil producer, said more regulation of the short-lived greenhouse gas, at least 84 times more potent than CO₂, will deliver quick results in ratcheting down emissions.
“If we can fix our methane problem we can quickly turn down the climate-warming impacts,” he said.
Major oil and gas companies also signaled support for the measure, including BP Plc, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Cheniere Energy Inc. and Occidental Petroleum Corp.
The CRA comes ahead of the release of a major United Nations report next week that will call for deep cuts in methane emissions to slow the rate of global warming and keep it beneath a threshold agreed by world leaders.
EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a recent interview that new methane rules, due by September, would likely exceed the goals of Obama-era regulations and play a significant role in helping the U.S. achieve its near-term climate goals.
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