Why Is Senator Heidi Heitkamp Protecting Obama’s Last Minute Methane Emission Rule?


Sen. Heidi Heitkamp holds a town hall Wednesday, March 19, 2014, at Carl Ben Eielson Middle School in in Fargo, N.D. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

On his way out the door earlier this year former President Barack Obama committed an act of regulatory vandalism. He instituted a last minute rule through the Bureau of Land Management targeting methane emissions from oil and gas development.

It’s a rule, like so many of the Obama administration’s actions, aimed less at protecting the environment than hamstringing the industry.

Right now Congress is working on unwinding the rule through the Congressional Review Act. The House has already passed a resolution to undo the rule, but things are stalled in the Senate.

North Dakota Senator John Hoeven supports repealing the rule saying it is “duplicative, unworkable and will hamper job creation and economic growth in North Dakota.”

Congressman Kevin Cramer voted in the House to repeal what he has described as a “God-awful rule” which is “aimed right at North Dakota.”

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]Senator Heitkamp can usually be counted on to understand these situations…But that sense of pragmatism seems to have abandoned the Senator here.[/mks_pullquote]

The Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation, home to a not insignificant portion of North Dakota’s oil development, has sent representatives to Washington D.C. to lobby for the rule’s repeal.

The North Dakota Chamber of Commerce wants the rule repealed.

Governor Doug Burgum is opposed to it.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has filed suit on behalf of the state over the rule.

Yet Senator Heidi Heitkamp continues to sit on the fence on the issue.

I think it’s fair to wonder why, at this point. What constituency is she serving by her refusal to take a position?

Is it the tiny knot of progressives which make up the remnants of the North Dakota Democratic Party? Is it the Democratic leadership in the Senate?

It cannot possibly be a majority of her North Dakota constituents.

Heitkamp’s reticence on this issue is downright puzzling.

As I’ve written before, Senator Heitkamp can usually be counted on to understand these situations, and side with what’s best for North Dakotans. A sort of level headed pragmatism where she departs from the far-left, progressive platform of her state and national parties is a big reason why the Democratic Senator has managed to survive in the politics of this Republican-dominated state.

But that sense of pragmatism seems to have abandoned the Senator here.

Heitkamp could be the deciding vote which moves this issue forward, but so far she’s decided not to be.

That’s not the choice of someone who wants to be re-elected in North Dakota in 2018.