Repealing Coal and Methane Rules Priority for Congress

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With a new administration taking office later this month, House Republicans have pledged to make repealing the Obama administration’s regulations on coal mining and methane emissions a top priority.


House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) says the Republicans will first plan to work on changing the way the executive branch writes rules and then focus on undoing specific rules. EPA rules that address the coal industry and methane will be at the top of the list.

“While we haven’t yet determined what needs to be repealed first, I expect to start with swift action on at least on the Stream Protection Rule and methane emissions standards, both of which are limits to our energy production,” said McCarthy in a speech last week. “This process won’t be completed quickly, but as we remove harmful regulations and change the structure of Washington, draining the bureaucratic swamp that undermines the will of the people, we can rebuild trust between the people and their government again.”

The message appears to coordinate with President-elect Trump’s larger plan to rein in overreach from federal agencies.

The Stream Protection rule was finalized by the Interior Department last year. It would create new standards for how coal mining companies protect and restore streams. Experts believe it is likely to further hurt the U.S. coal industry. In addition, EPA and the Interior Department have both written rules intended to limit methane emissions from oil and natural gas drilling. Together, the rules will raise the cost of production for oil and natural gas.

Because the rules were finalized last year, Congress still retains to repeal them using the Congressional Review Act. That might very well happen. According to Majority Leader McCarthy, the rules were an effort by the Obama Administration to “unilaterally impose regulations on his way out of the door.”

For his part, President-elect Trump has also vowed to fight the Stream Protection rule and any other rules restricting energy production.

Additional legislative help could be on the way too. The House soon will vote on a pair of bills that would make executive overreach more difficult in the future. One of them, the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny or REINS Act, would require Congress to approve any new rule that would have a significant impact on the economy. Another, the Regulatory Accountability Act, would help lawmakers make better decisions about how major rules will affect the economy.  Lawmakers may also vote on a new bill that would allow Congress to overturn all of President Obama’s “midnight regulations” that affect the economy.

Reining in federal overreach that threatens the energy industry is important for both our economy and our power grid. Hopefully, Congress and President Trump can work together to get our regulatory agencies back on the right track.