The Interior Department plans to not enforce methane emission rules for fracking on federal lands, after congressional Republicans failed to repeal the regulations.
The agency's Bureau of Land Management will announce the decision in Thursday's Federal Register, saying it intends to postpone the emission rule's January implementation "in light of the regulatory uncertainty created by the pending litigation and the ongoing administrative review," according to a pre-publication notice.
"Given this legal uncertainty, operators should not be required to expend substantial time and resources to comply with regulatory requirements that may prove short-lived as a result of pending litigation or the administrative review that is already under way," according to the notice.
Litigation is making its way through the courts, and the department is reconsidering the methane rules under President Trump's executive order for agencies to conduct reviews of all regulations that are burdensome under his pro-growth agenda.
The Senate failed in May to pass a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to repeal the methane rules. The CRA gives lawmakers the ability to rescind regulations within a certain time period after they have been finalized. That was the last opportunity for Congress to strike down the regulations, which oil and natural gas drillers oppose as unnecessary and duplicative.
The Environmental Protection Agency has its own methane rules for drillers that went into effect last year. The agency announced Tuesday that it plans to delay its rules by as long as two years to reconsider and potentially rescind them.
Both the Interior Department and EPA rules target methane emissions from fracking as part of former President Barack Obama's climate change agenda. Methane is a short-lived, but potent, greenhouse gas, which many scientists blame for causing the Earth's temperature to warm, resulting in sea-level rise and flooding.
Democrats and environmentalists on Wednesday began pushing back against the Bureau of Land Management's intended postponement. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who helped organize the defeat of the resolution of disapproval in May, said BLM's "methane rule now has the force of law — and President Trump is breaking it."
Cantwell, who is the top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said "Congress voted for people over polluters, and the administration must respect that outcome."