The Hill | 14 July 2017

Court Lets EPA Put Drilling Pollution Rule on Hold

A federal appeals court is letting the Trump administration put on hold an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) methane pollution rule for oil and natural gas drilling.

Credit: Getty Images.

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered on 13 July that its decision last week rejecting the EPA’s delay of the regulation could itself be delayed for 14 days while the Trump administration considers whether to appeal the ruling.

The court wrote in a brief order that putting the rule on hold “for longer would hand the agency, in all practical effect, the very delay in implementation this panel determined to be” illegal.

The same court had ruled on 3 July that the EPA overstepped its authority under the Clean Air Act when it put a 90-day pause on the Obama administration’s rule limiting methane emissions from oil and gas drilling operations.

The 90-day delay was meant to give the EPA time to go through the process of formally repealing the regulation.

Read the full story here.


Blakes via Mondaq | 14 July 2017

Canada: Emission Limit Implementation Recommendations From Alberta’s Oil Sands Advisory Group

On 16 June 2017, the Alberta Oil Sands Advisory Group (OSAG) released its report Recommendations on Implementation of the Oil Sands Emissions Limit Established by the Alberta Climate Leadership Plan, which sets out recommendations for implementing and remaining within the 100 megatonne per year greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions limit for the oil sands sector articulated in Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan.

The report recommends the introduction of a regulatory regime that places a continued emphasis on emissions intensity as GHG emissions approach the emissions limit. The new regime includes forecasting requirements and the issuance of annual authorizations for GHG emissions by oil sands facilities. Through the allocation of these authorizations and other mechanisms, the regime seeks to encourage innovation and ensure that the emissions limit is not exceeded.

The OSAG was established by Alberta’s Minister of Environment and Parks in July 2016 to advise the Alberta government on the implementation of the plan as it relates to the oil sands. Pursuant to its mandate letter, the OSAG was specifically tasked with advising on the implementation of the emissions limit. Its membership for the purposes of the preparation of the report included a cross-section of representatives, including environmental, aboriginal, and industry leaders.

Read the full story here.

Read the OSAG report here (PDF).

Morning Consult | 14 July 2017

Advocates for Methane Rule Dominate EPA Hearing

Public interest groups and local stakeholders at a public hearing on 10 July urged the Environmental Protection Agency to continue to enforce methane regulations.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images.

The hearing at the EPA’s headquarters in Washington related the agency’s recent moves to delay the Obama administration’s methane rules for 2 years. Conservationists, health experts, and community members focused on the effects of methane emissions and climate change on their lives.

In a 2-1 decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the EPA could not postpone implementing the methane rule for 3 months, denying the agency’s request. But Justice Department lawyers representing the EPA asked to delay enforcement while the agency considers an appeal.

The EPA continues to identify methane as a greenhouse gas. The Obama administration in 2016 added regulations for methane gas that escapes through oil and gas wells. But the EPA under President Donald Trump has said that staying enforcement on those rules for the next 2 years would save businesses USD 235 million during that time period.

The EPA was not immediately available for comment on the regulation and its enforcement.

At least two-thirds of more than 150 speakers registered to comment at the hearing were tied to an environmental group, health association, or person who opposed the rule’s reconsideration and delay.

Read the full story here.

The Hill | 10 July 2017

EPA Asks Court To Let it Delay Obama Air Pollution Rule

The Trump administration asked a federal appeals court on 7 July to allow it to delay enforcement of an Obama administration rule to limit methane pollution from oil and natural gas drilling.

Credit: Getty Images.

Justice Department lawyers representing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) objected to the 3 July ruling from the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that mandated that the EPA immediately enforce the methane regulation, which the Trump administration had tried to delay so that it could go through a full repeal process.

In their 7 July motion to the court, the attorneys said the circuit court would normally hold off on enforcing its ruling for 52 days, to allow the Justice Department to decide whether it would appeal the ruling.

“By taking the unusual step of directing that the mandate issue forthwith, the court required immediate compliance with its decision (and, therefore, compliance with the full scope of the 2016 rule, including those provisions that are being reconsidered), notwithstanding that EPA and regulated parties would ordinarily be provided with 52 days, or longer, before compliance was required,” the attorneys wrote.

Such a delay by the court would allow the EPA to once again hold off on enforcing the standards on the oil and gas industry.

Read the full story here.

The Denver Post | 5 July 2017

DC Appeals Court Orders EPA To Move Ahead With Methane Rule

A federal appeals court in Washington ruled on 3 July that the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) overstepped his authority in trying to delay implementation of an Obama administration rule requiring oil and gas companies to monitor and reduce methane leaks.

In this 2 June 2017 file photo, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks to the media during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. A federal appeals court in Washington says Pruitt overstepped his authority in trying to delay implementation of a 2016 rule requiring oil and gas companies to monitor and reduce methane leaks. Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press.

In a split decision, the three-judge panel from the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered the EPA to move forward with the new requirement that aims to reduce planet-warming emissions from oil and gas operations.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced in April that he would delay by 90 days the deadline for oil and gas companies to follow the new rule so that the agency could reconsider the measure. The American Petroleum Institute, the Texas Oil and Gas Association, and other industry groups had petitioned Pruitt to scrap the requirement, which had been set to take effect in June.

Last month, Pruitt announced he intended to extend the 90-day stay for 2 years. A coalition of six environmental groups opposed the delay in court, urging the appeals judges to block Pruitt’s decision.

In a detailed 31-page ruling, the court disagreed with Pruitt’s contention that industry groups had not had sufficient opportunity to comment before the 2016 rule was enacted. The judges also said Pruitt lacked the legal authority to delay the rule from taking effect.

Read the full story here.

The New York Times | 3 July 2017

Counseled by Industry, Not Staff, EPA Chief Is Off to a Blazing Start

In the 4 months since he took office as the Environmental Protection Agency’s administrator, Scott Pruitt has moved to undo, delay, or otherwise block more than 30 environmental rules, a regulatory rollback larger in scope than any other over so short a time in the agency’s 47-year history, according to experts in environmental law.

Scott Pruitt, right, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin after President Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris agreement on climate change. Credit: Al Drago/The New York Times.

Pruitt’s supporters, including President Trump, have hailed his moves as an uprooting of the administrative state and a clearing of onerous regulations that have stymied American business. Environmental advocates have watched in horror as Pruitt has worked to disable the authority of the agency charged with protecting the nation’s air, water, and public health.

But both sides agree: While much of Trump’s policy agenda is mired in legal and legislative delays, hampered by poor execution and overshadowed by the Russia investigations, the EPA is acting. Pruitt, a former Oklahoma attorney general who built a career out of suing the agency he now leads, is moving effectively to dismantle the regulations and international agreements that stood as a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s legacy.

“Just the number of environmental rollbacks in this time frame is astounding,” said Richard Lazarus, a professor of environmental law at Harvard. “Pruitt has come in with a real mission. He is much more organized, much more focused than the other cabinet-level officials, who have not really taken charge of their agencies. It’s very striking how much they’ve done.”

Since February, Pruitt has filed a proposal of intent to undo or weaken Obama’s climate change regulations, known as the Clean Power Plan. In late June, he filed a legal plan to repeal an Obama-era rule curbing pollution in the nation’s waterways. He delayed a rule that would require fossil fuel companies to rein in leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas wells. He delayed the date by which companies must comply with a rule to prevent explosions and spills at chemical plants. And he reversed a ban on the use of a pesticide that the EPA’s own scientists have said is linked to damage of children’s nervous systems.

Read the full story here.

The Hill | 19 June 2017

Interior Set To Delay Methane Pollution Rule

The Interior Department is preparing to delay implementation of a rule limiting methane waste at oil and natural gas drilling sites.

Credit: Getty Images.

In a Federal Register notice , Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said it would look to postpone the compliance dates for several parts of the Obama-era rule. The rule aims to reduce leaks of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, at drilling sites on federal land.

Drillers are required to come into compliance with the rule beginning on 17 January 2018. But several industry groups have sued over the regulation, and President Trump has ordered Interior to reconsider the measure.

BLM said in its Register notice that it would postpone the compliance dates “in light of the regulatory uncertainty created by the pending litigation and the ongoing administrative review.”“Given this legal uncertainty, operators should not be required to expend substantial time and resources to comply with regulatory requirements that may prove short-lived as a result of pending litigation or the administrative review that is already under way,” the agency wrote in its notice.

Read the full story here.

Bennett Jones via Mondaq | 19 June 2017

Canada: New Federal Methane Reduction Regulations for the Upstream Oil and Gas Sector

The government of Canada has released its proposal for the first federal regulations on greenhouse gas emissions applicable specifically to the upstream oil and gas sector, titled Regulations Respecting Reduction in the Release of Methane and Certain Volatile Organic Compounds (Upstream Oil and Gas Sector).

The proposed regulations, which will be enacted under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, SC 1999, c 33, introduce facility and equipment standards to reduce fugitive and venting emissions of “hydrocarbon” gas (defined in the proposed regulations as methane and certain volatile organic compounds but, for the purposes of this summary, referred to collectively as “gas”) from Canada’s oil and gas industry. These standards will apply as of 1 January 2020 (with several exceptions). The proposed regulations are part of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change to meet greenhouse-gas-reduction targets.

The reduction requirements contemplated in the proposed regulations can be categorized broadly into two categories: general requirements applicable to upstream oil and gas facilities and requirements specific to upstream oil and gas facilities producing or receiving an aggregate of more than 60,000 m3 of gas in a 12-month period.

Read the full story here.

EPA | 14 June 2017

EPA Proposes Longer Stay of Portions of Oil and Gas Standards

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking steps to ensure portions of the agency’s 2016 New Source Performance Standards for the oil and natural gas industry do not take effect while the agency works through the reconsideration process.

The agency is proposing a 2-year stay of the fugitive emissions, pneumatic pump, and professional engineer certification requirements in the rule while the agency reconsiders issues associated with these requirements. Under the proposal, sources would not need to comply with these requirements while the stay is in effect. Since issuing the final rule, the EPA has received several petitions to reconsider certain aspects of the rule.

Earlier this month, EPA used its Clean Air Act authority to issue a 90-day administrative stay of these requirements. To ensure there is no gap in the stay between the 90-day stay and the proposed 2-year stay if finalized, the EPA also is proposing a 3-month stay.

The EPA will take comment on both of the proposed stays for 30 days after they are published in the Federal Register.

Read more about the proposed stays and reconsideration here.

Perchstone & Graeys via Mondaq | 14 June 2017

Nigeria: Passage of Petroleum Industry Governance Bill a Step to Change

The momentous passage of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill on 25 May 25 by the Nigerian Senate was heralded by many as a revolutionary step at creating a legal framework to address some of the perennial challenges that have plagued the oil and gas industry over the years. With this development, the bill is expected to go through a few other legislative procedures and eventually be assented by the president.

The bill seeks to establish efficient and effective governing institutions with clear and separate roles for the petroleum industry. The bill also proposes to establish a framework for the creation of commercially oriented and profit-driven petroleum entities that ensure value addition and internationalization of the petroleum industry as well as promote transparency and accountability in the administration of petroleum resources of Nigeria. Furthermore, it is the expectation of oil industry players that the bill will foster a conducive business environment for petroleum industry operations.

The bill provides three-pronged solutions to the bureaucratic bottlenecks and regulatory inefficiency in the oil and gas industry; harsh business environment for investment in the industry; and default in meeting the financial obligations of the government on its investment in the industry. The unique approach offered by the Bill is the establishment of three institutions to pilot the change in the general operations of the oil and gas industry: Nigeria Petroleum Regulatory Commission; National Petroleum Asset Management Company, and National Petroleum Company.

Read the full story here.

Bloomberg | 14 June 2017

Trump Weighing Combining Agencies Separated After Gulf Spill, Sources Say

After the 2010 Gulf oil spill, the Obama administration broke the scandal-plagued federal agency that policed offshore drilling into separate bureaus.

Now, the Trump administration is considering putting it back together again.

The change, described by Interior Department officials and lobbyists familiar with the deliberations, would combine two agencies: one that enforces regulations on offshore drilling safety and another in charge of leasing offshore tracts. Keeping those roles separate was a key recommendation of a presidential commission that investigated the Deepwater Horizon blast that killed 11 men and sent oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico for months.

Merging the bureaus could send a signal that Interior is easing off on enforcement, right as President Donald Trump expands areas available for offshore oil drilling, according to Bob Graham, a former Florida senator who led the commission.

“I have heard no indication of why we’re doing this,” Graham said in an interview. “It’s just 7 years after this enormous disaster—and this was one of the key steps in at least mitigating the chances of a repetition.”

Read the full story here.

CNBC | 6 June 2017

Trump’s EPA Hit With Lawsuit Over Suspension of Oil- and Gas-Drilling Rules

A group of conservation organizations sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on 5 June, saying the agency unlawfully suspended Obama-era rules to cut methane pollution.

President Donald Trump, left, listens to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt after announcing his decision that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, in the Rose Garden of the White House on 1 June. Credit: Kevin Lamarque, Reuters.

The lawsuit is another sign that environmentalists intend to use the courts to block President Donald Trump’s effort to roll back energy regulations and climate change initiatives pushed by his predecessor.

Environmental groups have already sued the president over his approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and for seeking to overturn President Barack Obama’s ban on offshore drilling in the Arctic. Some nonprofits, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, have also sued over Trump’s executive order requiring federal agencies to repeal two regulations for every new one they propose.

Six conservation groups on 5 June filed suit after the EPA suspended implementation of rules meant to prevent methane leaks from oil and gas operations. They said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a 90-day stay without giving the public advance notice or the opportunity to comment, as required by law.

Read the full story here.