On March 28, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order entitled “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth,” with the stated policy of “promot[ing] clean and safe development” of domestic energy resources and ensuring an affordable and reliable supply of electricity, while “avoiding regulatory burdens that unnecessarily encumber energy production, constrain economic growth, and prevent job creation.” Although the Executive Order does not itself withdraw any rules issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or other agencies, it clearly reflects President Trump’s intent to drastically change course from the Obama administration’s stance on climate change and to seek reducing environmental regulation of, among other sources of greenhouse gases, coal-fired power plants and oil and natural gas operations.
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This week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent a highly-anticipated proposed rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for interagency review that would address methane emissions in the oil and natural gas sector. Earlier this year, EPA announced its plan to initiate such a rulemaking as part of its methane reduction strategy. A second proposed rule was also reportedly sent to OMB for review this week – EPA is working on new definitions for certain regulatory terms associated with permitting sources in the oil and gas industry, in order to assist permitting agencies in making major stationary source determinations. Both of the proposed rules are expected to be published in the Federal Register in August.
The White House recently released a report from the first Quadrennial Energy Review (QER), focusing on U.S. energy transmission, storage and distribution infrastructure. In January 2014, President Obama directed the administration to conduct the QER as part of his Climate Action Plan, in order to provide a “multi-year roadmap for U.S. energy policy”. This first QER report includes a recommendation for the U.S. to invest in the modernization of its aging energy infrastructure, including accelerating pipeline replacement and the maintenance of natural gas distribution systems. The QER report indicates that such investments will increase the safety, security, resiliency and reliability of the U.S. energy infrastructure while promoting economic, consumer service, climate protection and system reliability benefits.