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Congress Uses Obscure Law to Start Ripping Apart Environmental Policies

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The House GOP is just getting started with cuts using the Congressional Review Act (CRA), an arcane piece of mid-1990s legislation allowing Congress to overturn any Obama regulations finalized after June of last year.

In addition to the disclosure requirements Wednesday, the House also voted to axe the Department of Interior's (DOI) Stream Protection Rule, which protected streams and waterways from mining waste. On the chopping block for Friday is another DOI rule requiring oil and gas companies to reduce methane emissions on federal lands. (Speaking of methane, a new study published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Research Letters demonstrates that global methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry may actually be higher than current estimates).

"Supporters who vote for these resolutions should explain why they think there should never be any limits on what gets dumped into streams, or any limits on mountain top removal coal mining or on methane spewing into the air," Scott Slesinger, legislative director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said.

"It's hard to imagine why they'd oppose methane limits, since this gas causes health and climate problems, and industry could make money from selling it, instead of allowing it to leak or be wasted. Taxpayers would also benefit, because the leakage reduces royalty payments."

The CRA also stipulates that federal agencies cannot re-issue rules in "substantially the same form" as previous regulations, although since the CRA has only been used once before in history, it remains to be seen how this will take effect.

For a deeper dive:

CRA explainer: Vox; Stream rule explainer: Nexus Media News; General CRA: The Guardian, The Hill; Stream rule: CNN, Quartz; Methane: San Antonio Express-News, Mother Jones; IIASA study: UPI

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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