In Congress right now there is an effort to disapprove an Obama administration regulation aimed at the oil industry. The so-called “venting and flaring” rule imposed by the Bureau of Land Management is so colossally broad it impacts not just federal lands but state lands as well.
This rule creates a jurisdictional quagmire, which I’m sure was the point given the Obama administration’s attitudes about oil and gas development.
The House has passed a resolution under the Congressional Review Act disapproving of the rule, but the Senate hasn’t voted yet.
North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp has been busy sitting on the fence on this issue. Today, in a letter to the editor, former North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Sarah Vogel urges Heitkamp to vote against the rule, citing concerns about waste valuable minerals on the Fort Berthold reservation, home of the MHA Nation.
Only there are a couple of problems with Vogel’s letter.
For one thing, the MHA nation wants the rule overturned. They were in Washington D.C. last week to pursue that end. I’m sure they’re thinking of their own sovereignty on their lands, and the ability to balance for themselves the economic benefits of energy development with prudent regulatory restrictions.
For another, Congressman Kevin Cramer tells me Heitkamp has already been giving assurances that she’ll vote to overturn the rule.
“The tribal delegates who called on Heidi last Thursday told me she agreed to vote for the CRA,” he said referring to the MHA representatives.
I reached out to Senator Heitkamp’s office for comment earlier this afternoon but they haven’t replied.
If Heitkamp follows through on her apparent promise to the tribal delegation it’ll probably land her in hot water with her progressive base.
Heitkamp’s social media accounts have been filled with vitriol over her backing legislation to undo the Obama administration’s Stream Protection Rule (a priority of the state’s coal industry), not to mention her vote in favor of President Trump’s EPA appointee.
A vote for the CRA to overturn the flaring rules is the right move for Heitkamp politically. She can’t afford to alienate supporters of North Dakota’s oil or coal industry, or the state electorate as a whole which voted big for Trump.
But what if she so enrages her progressive base that they stay home on election day in 2018?
Remember that Heitkamp won her current term in office by a margin of just a few thousand votes. While she needs cross over votes from the state’s Republicans to stay in office, she also can’t afford to lose too many votes from her base either.