Senate Democrats plan to deploy an obscure but powerful legislative weapon in the coming weeks to try to quickly reinstate a major Obama-era climate change rule that the Trump administration had effectively eliminated.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, is expected next month to invoke the 1996 Congressional Review Act with the goal of undoing a Trump rule finalized in September that lifted controls on the release of methane, a powerful planet-warming gas that is emitted from leaks and flares in oil and gas wells.
Democrats argue that the move, which will be sponsored by Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, will have the legal effect of immediately reinstating the Obama methane rules. That would be a far more rapid timetable than the yearslong regulatory process typically required to undo or reinstate regulations.
“The Trump rule to remove limits on emissions of methane from oil and gas was an illogical and a devastating blow to one of the most important tools to curbing greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr. Schumer said in a statement. “The Democratic Senate will hold a vote to overturn this rule, which is one of many initiatives we are pursuing to fight the climate crisis.”
Under the Congressional Review Act, any regulation finalized within 60 legislative days of the end of a presidential term can be overturned with a simple majority vote in the Senate.
Before 2017, the review act procedure had been used only once, to undo a Clinton-era rule on workplace ergonomics in 2001. Then, in the early months of the Trump administration, Senate Republicans used the procedure to wipe out 14 Obama-era regulations in 16 weeks. Democrats now intend to employ it to wipe out some of the executive-branch policies enacted in the last days of the Trump administration.