An effort to overturn a rule limiting methane emissions from oil and natural gas drilling has failed in the Senate – a first in the Trump administration’s ongoing effort to repeal Obama administration regulations it deems burdensome to business.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rule requires companies drilling on federal land to curtail methane waste through venting or burning it at the well site. Its goals are both environmental – methane is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change – as well as financial – federal lands and their resources belong to taxpayers.

The natural gas industry argued that they had already taken steps to reduce methane emissions. Environmentalists said upholding the rule will mean cleaner air -- particularly in the western states, where a great deal of drilling takes place on public land.

The vote was close, falling two short of the 51 votes needed to move forward on the resolution to undo the rule. Republicans Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) joined Senate Democrats in opposing an overturn of the bill.

McCain called the BLM rule is “onerous,” but noted that the Congressional Review Act (CRA) that would have been used to nullify it would have prevented the federal government from issuing a similar rule in the  future. “I believe that the public interest is best served if the Interior Department issues a new rule to revise and improve the BLM methane rule,” McCain said. 

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) called it a commonsense rule that prevents waste “just like it was laid out to do.”

The rule could still be repealed by the Interior Department through a complex and lengthy process.

To date, 13 CRA resolutions to overturn regulations have been signed into law by President Trump.