E&E News' Gilmer talks legal, rulemaking options at play following CRA failure

Following this week's surprising failure in the Senate to pass a Congressional Review Act resolution to disapprove the Obama administration's methane rule, what's next for the regulation, and what are the remaining options for repealing the rule altogether? On today's The Cutting Edge, E&E News reporter Ellen Gilmer discusses pending litigation and possible changes to the rule.


Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to The Cutting Edge. Following this week's surprising vote in the Senate on the Obama administration's methane rule, what's next for the regulation? And what are the steps for repealing the rule altogether? E&E News reporter Ellen Gilmer joins me today. She's been following this all week. Thanks for joining me.

Ellen Gilmer: Absolutely.

Monica Trauzzi: So, Ellen, this week the Senate failed to pass this Congressional Review Act resolution that would have disapproved the BLM's methane rule. The outcome was a surprise, so how did we get here and what does this vote sort of tee up for Congress now?

Ellen Gilmer: You're right, Monica, that it was definitely surprising. Members of Congress have been grappling with this for months. In February the House voted to get rid of the rule, and everybody knew the Senate vote would be close. Nobody expected John McCain to be the wild card voting against getting rid of the rule. At this point Congress is moving on, and the issue now is going to be in the hands of the Interior Department and in the courts.

Monica Trauzzi: So right, at this point we're waiting for the Interior Department's results for the review that they've done on the rule. We're expecting that it will include some changes. What would that mean for the litigation that's already in play and any potential future litigation?

Ellen Gilmer: Well, the short answer is we just don't know yet. Interior's reviewing the rule. We will see some changes eventually. At the same time we have this litigation going on. We have states and industry groups that have challenged the rule. What could happen is the Trump administration could ask the court to freeze the case while Interior continues to think about changes to the rule and formalize those changes. At the same time oil and gas companies are concerned about compliance costs from the rule that they're facing now, so they would really like for that to all be resolved in court or whatever way is fastest, so there's some tension there.

Monica Trauzzi: And how is the oil and gas industry responding to this week's news, the failure of the vote?

Ellen Gilmer: They're not responding well. They spent quite a bit of time and money over the past several months lobbying on this effort and trying to get rid of the rule, which they consider very burdensome, and so they were as surprised as everyone and disappointed, extremely frustrated with Congress for not making this happen. They're still pretty optimistic that they're going to get what they want eventually, whether it's through Interior or the courts. It's just not going to be as quick and easy a process as they would've hoped.

Monica Trauzzi: Right, would've been cleaner and quicker if this had worked.

Ellen Gilmer: Right.

Monica Trauzzi: What kind of timeline are we looking at for overall resolution of this?

Ellen Gilmer: It depends. If the litigation stays on track we'll probably actually see a decision by the end of this year. The judge in the case just this week noted that he understands the urgency of the issue and he can hear the arguments and issue a decision before the next round of compliance deadlines kick in, and that's in January of 2018. So in the courts we'll probably see an answer by the end of the year. From Interior, they have to go through this review process. They have to go through formal steps for making changes or rescinding the rule altogether. Public comment and all of that takes time. Sources think that it would take at least six months to make any significant changes to the rule through that process and quite possibly quite a bit longer, because Interior doesn't want to be sloppy here. They know that whatever decision they ultimately land on, that's going to be subject to new legal challenges.

Monica Trauzzi: All right, a lot to watch. Thank you. Great reporting this week.

Ellen Gilmer: Thanks.

Monica Trauzzi: Thanks for watching. More Cutting Edge coming next Friday. We'll see you then.

[End of Audio]



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