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House Votes to Repeal Obama Energy Regs, Including BLM's Flaring/Venting Rule

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives invoked the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to repeal three rules enacted during the Obama administration, including the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) rules governing flaring and venting of associated natural gas on public and tribal lands.

On Thursday, the Republican-led House voted 232-190 -- along partisan lines -- in favor of HR 74, which calls for congressional disapproval of the BLM's Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation Rule, among other things. The bill was introduced Tuesday by Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK).

The final rule on flaring, which was to be implemented in stages, called for requiring oil and gas producers to use currently available technologies and processes to cut flaring in half at oil wells on public and tribal lands. Operators would have also been required to periodically inspect their facilities for leaks and replace outdated equipment that vents large quantities of gas into the air. Other parts of the rule required operators to limit venting from storage tanks and to use best practices to limit gas losses when removing liquids from wells.

House Republicans also invoked the CRA twice on Wednesday. On a 228-194 vote, lawmakers passed HJ Res 38 -- a joint resolution introduced Monday by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) -- that calls for nullifying the Stream Protection Rule, which was promulgated by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE). Both BLM and OSMRE are agencies within the Department of Interior (DOI).

A separate joint resolution -- HJ Res 41, introduced Monday by Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI) -- passed the House by a vote of 235-187. The bill calls for congressional disapproval of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's disclosure rule for resource extraction, part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Last week, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), who chairs the powerful House Committee on Natural Resources, said his colleagues planned to invoke the CRA to repeal BLM's flaring and venting rule and OSMRE's stream protection rule. Several states and industry groups have filed lawsuits over the former.

Under the CRA, Congress has a 60-day window where it can expedite the rejection of proposed regulation. Republicans have been gearing up to use the CRA since the election.

Similar resolutions must pass the Senate and be sent to President Trump for his approval before the rules are officially repealed. According to reports, the president supports the repeals.

Other rules and regulations that could be targeted by Republicans include a BLMrule governing hydraulic fracturing on public and tribal lands; DOI's Methane Waste Prevention Rule; and the Clean Water Rule (CWR), which was created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The CWR was designed to clarify what constitutes Waters of the United States, thereby deserving protection under the Clean Water Act.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a stay on the CWR in October 2015. The official White House website, updated after Trump's inauguration, indicates that Trump intends to eliminate the CWR.

Bishop said lawmakers also plan to review the "social cost of carbon" methodology for crafting regulation. The metric, which is used to calculate the cost to society from one ton of carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere, was cited by the Trump transition team in its controversial questionnaire to employees and contractors working for the Department of Energy.

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