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Dive Brief:

  • House Republicans plan to target Obama administration rules on methane emissions from oil and gas facilities and stream pollution from coal mining in some of their first acts of this Congress, The Hill reports.
  • The House on Wednesday passed a bill that would allow lawmakers to block several recent "midnight regulations" from the Obama administration, and GOP leadership said they expect to "start with swift action on at least on the Stream Protection Rule and methane emissions standards."
  • Under the Congressional Review Act, lawmakers have 60 days to review rules before they go into effect, and the bill would allow Congress to repeal multiple rules in one act. 

Dive Insight:

As Congress gets back to work, the big question for the power sector is which Obama administration rules the GOP majority and incoming president will target first. 

The House wasted little time, passing a bill that would streamline congressional review of executive branch rules, and GOP leaders said regulations governing energy production could be first on the chopping block. 

"While we haven’t yet determined what needs to be repealed first, I expect to start with swift action on at least on the Stream Protection Rule and methane emissions standards," McCarthy said. 

Both rules were finalized last year within the timeline that allows for review under the Congressional Review Act. But the CRA process is complicated, the Washington Post notes, and has only been used once to overturn an executive branch regulation. 

The Midnight Rule Relief Act seeks to streamline the process. First passed by the House last year, it would allow lawmakers to review multiple rules at once.

“All this legislation does is allow for us to dispose of one or more regulations in an expedited fashion in this body and have it seen in the same form in the Senate,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) said of the bill. Democrats criticized it as an attack on needed government oversight. 

Another bill passed last year in the House would require approval from a joint session of Congress for any new regulation. That bill wasn't brought up for another vote this week, but both proposals face a tougher test in the Senate, where Democrats could use the filibuster. 

Regardless of the bills, Congress and the president-elect have promised to repeal a number of other power sector regulations, including the Clean Power Plan. Finalized in 2015, it is not eligible for a CRA review, but could be undone if the incoming administration refuses to defend it in court or issues a new rule rescinding the carbon standards. 

Power sector lawyers say changes to the EPA's new source pollution rules for power plants are also probable. On Wednesday the D.C. Circuit rejected a plea to delay a challenge to those rules that was requested by states critical of the standards who wanted to wait for action from the Trump administration.