The environmental policy news from Washington DC recently has not been great, to say the least. So it’s worth stopping to appreciate some recent wins.
First, in a surprising and close vote today, the U.S. Senate failed to overturn Obama administration regulations on methane emissions from fossil fuel extraction on public lands. Methane is one of the most harmful greenhouse gas pollutants, and this rule was critical to limiting those emissions.
Using the once-obscure Congressional Review Act, Congress could have not only wiped out the rule but also precluded the Bureau of Land Management from regulating in this area again. The oil and gas industry lost in the senate by one vote, with Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona the deciding votes (all Democrats voted against it).
Second, in the recent budget deal to keep the federal government funded through September, congressional negotiators saved the most important clean tech research agency, ARPA-E in the Department of Energy. As Utility Dive reported, ARPA-E actually received a $15 million boost instead of being eliminated, as the Trump administration had proposed.
Finally, the Caltrain electrification funding, which Congressional Republicans had held up because the electrification would one day get high speed rail to San Francisco, came through in the same budget deal with a partial amount of $100 million out of the original $647 million. It’s no guarantee that the rest of the dollars will be approved, but it’s a good sign.
So while the news can be gloomy on the environment, and there are a lot of battles still to come, it’s good to see common sense rule-making and investments still moving forward right now.