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Obama-era Methane Emission Regulations Stand

The U.S. Senate has blocked an effort to overturn an Obama-era regulation restricting harmful methane emissions that escape from oil and gas wells on federal land.

The measure failed on a vote of 51-to-49 in the Republican-led chamber.
Republican leaders were seeking to overturn the Interior Department rule under the Congressional Review Act.

President Barack Obama finalized a rule in November that would force energy companies to capture methane that's burned off or "flared" at drilling sites because it earns less money than oil.

In 2015 researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology identified more than 250 sources of a methane hot spot over the Four Corners region of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. They include gas wells, storage tanks, pipelines and processing plants, many of which have been repaired since the study was released.

The first coalbed methane production in Utah occurred in 1987 and according to the Utah Division of Natural Resources 28 billion cubic feet of methane gas was produced in the state during 2016.

Democrats and environmental groups say the new rules are necessary to protect the public health while still allowing energy producers to generate millions in revenue for state, local and tribal governments.

Republicans and industry groups call the rule an example of federal overreach under Obama and say it duplicates state rules in places throughout the West.