What can a hundred million dollars in campaign contributions buy oil companies?
The effort to kill the BLM methane waste rule will show us
Oil industry lobbyists have made eliminating the “BLM methane waste rule” a top priority since Congress went back to work in 2017. The industry, which spent over $100 million supporting candidates for federal office in 2016, is now expecting politicians to fall in line and vote to scrap a rule whose stated purpose is to limit the waste of taxpayer-owned natural gas from energy operations on American public lands.
A bill to nix the common sense standards has already passed the House of Representatives, but has been stuck in the U.S. Senate for weeks without the votes to pass. Now, the pressure campaign from oil and gas industry lobbyists, including groups like the American Petroleum Institute and the Western Energy Alliance, is ramping up.
Oil and gas companies certainly have no shortage of financial resources. Since 2009, industry interests have spent north of $1 billion lobbying Congress. The 17 politicians sponsoring legislation to eliminate the BLM methane waste rule have received contributions totaling nearly $17 million from oil and gas interests.
Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and John Cornyn (R-TX) have received a whopping $5.3 million combined from the oil and gas industry, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) took in almost $2 million each, while Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has netted over $1.3 million and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) over $700,000.
According to news reports (here, here, here, and here), the senators who remain undecided about scrapping the BLM methane waste rule include Cory Gardner (R-CO), Rob Portman (R-OH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), John McCain (R-AZ), and Dean Heller (R-NV). Combined, these six politicians received contributions totaling over $6.5 million from oil and gas interests in their careers.
Now the questions facing each of these political leaders is: will they do what’s right for American taxpayers or will they do the bidding of their donors in the oil industry?
Unlike most pieces of legislation which require 60 votes to pass, Congress is using an arcane law — the Congressional Review Act — which only requires 51 votes to repeal a regulation in the early days of a new presidential administration. If just a few of these elected officials vote to repeal the BLM methane waste rule then the bill will pass the Senate and companies will be able to go back to wasting taxpayer-owned natural gas with abandon.
What’s worse, the Congressional Review Act would limit future administrations from putting a similar policy in place, even if the problem of wasted natural gas grows even worse. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) put it best when he told The Hill that the Congressional Review Act is far too blunt an instrument for this rule. For that reason, Senator Graham — a strong conservative — is a “no” vote on repealing the BLM methane waste rule.
Hopefully we’ll see many more political leaders with the backbone and courage to tell well-heeled lobbyists that on this one, they won’t be supporting the oil industry’s agenda.