House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said Republican lawmakers have yet to decide which regulations from the Obama administration they want to repeal first, but he disclosed that he expected "swift action" on rules governing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.
Meanwhile, the House passed along partisan lines a bill that would allow Congress to reject an entire block of proposed regulations, so-called "midnight rules," if they were submitted by federal agencies within the last 60 days of a legislative session and in the final year of a president's term. Currently, lawmakers must go through the regulations one at a time.
In a speech on the House floor Wednesday, McCarthy promised that lawmakers "will repeal specific regulations that are harmful to the American people, costing us time, money, and most importantly, jobs...
"[President Obama] continues to unilaterally impose regulations on his way out the door," McCarthy said, according to the Congressional record. "So while we haven't yet determined what needs to be repealed first, I expect to start with swift action on at least the stream protection rule and methane emissions standards, both of which limit our energy production."
Last year, the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) unveiled rules governing flaring and venting of associated natural gas on public and tribal lands, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued three final rules covering methane emissions from new oil and gas wells. Several states and industry groups have since filed lawsuits over both sets of rules.
"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," McCarthy said. He added that House lawmakers will look at the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) next week.
"[The RAA] will require agencies to choose the least costly option available and will end judicial deference to agencies, which puts the American people at a disadvantage in the courtroom."
On Wednesday, the House passed HR 21, also known as the "Midnight Rules Relief Act," on a 238-184 vote; four Democrats crossed party lines and voted with the GOP. The bill, introduced Tuesday by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), calls for amending the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to allow Congress to issue a joint resolution of disapproval for a block of rules, or "en bloc."
In the wake of President-elect Donald Trump's win last November, Republican lawmakers have threatened to use the CRA as a tool to repeal various Obama administration policies, including a separate BLM rule governing hydraulic fracturing on public and tribal lands, and the joint promulgation of the Clean Water Rule (CWR) by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The CWR was designed to clarify what constitutes Waters of the United States (WOTUS), thereby deserving protection under the Clean Water Act.
"It is time to get rid of the Washington-knows-best, top-down, one-size-fits-all rules like the EPA's WOTUS [and] the Clean Power Plan..." Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) said Wednesday before HR 21's passage, adding that the federal government enacted 3,400 regulations in 2015. She asserted that the regulations cost the nation $1.9 trillion in lost productivity and growth, calculating the loss at $15,000 per household.
With the passage of HR 21, Wagner said Republicans "are demonstrating that we are listening to our constituents and we are telling them that their elected representatives are in charge, not Washington bureaucrats."
But House Democrats pushed back. "I am astounded by this feeling that regulations shouldn't be examined one by one," said Rep. John Conyers (D-MI). "Under this measure, 61 regulations could be considered en bloc. To me, just trying to put together two regulations to revoke them would be very, very hard to handle...
"Can you imagine this Congress trying to block regulations which would be offered in one bill that could be over 60 different regulations? I mean, it is unthinkable. It is not very practical at all."