Arkansas Online | 17 August 2017

Appeals Panel Voids Exxon Pipe-Risk Order

A federal appeals court panel has handed Exxon Mobil a victory in the oil giant’s clash with the government over a regulatory order resulting from the Pegasus pipeline oil spill in Mayflower, Arkansas, more than 4 years ago.

In a decision issued 14 August and made public on 15 August, a three-judge panel of the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans vacated an order that Exxon Mobil revise its process for determining the seam-risk factor for all of the company’s older pipes still used in lines similar to the aging Pegasus.

In an accompanying opinion, the court wrote: “The fact that the Mayflower release occurred, while regrettable, does not necessarily mean that [Exxon Mobil] failed to abide by the pipeline integrity regulations in considering the appropriate risk factors. If it did, then an operator that experiences a seam-related pipeline leak on its pipeline system could never escape liability under pipeline integrity regulations.

“The unfortunate fact of the matter is that, despite adherence to safety guidelines and regulations, oil spills still do occur,” the court added.

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Akabogu and Associates via Mondaq

Nigeria: Innovations Under the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill

The recent passage of the Petroleum Industry Governance & Institutional Framework Bill, also known as the PIGIF Bill, by the Nigerian senate marks a huge step forward in revamping the status quo in the country’s hydrocarbon sector. Although the bill is yet to be passed by Nigeria’s House of Representatives and get the presidential assent, it is still essential that a comprehensive review of what could become the Petroleum Industry Governance Act is conducted.

The hydrocarbon sector is one of utmost importance to Nigeria’s growing economy. Ranked among the top 10 producers, with one of the largest gas reserves in the world, the country’s hydrocarbon sector has remained the country’s primary source of revenue, leading to calls for a review of the workings of the sector. The bill is the first of many bills targeted at causing reform to Nigeria’s petroleum industry.

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The Hill | 24 July 2017

White House Details Plan To Roll Back Environmental Regulations

The Trump administration provided details for its aggressive plan to roll back environmental regulations on 20 July.

Credit: Getty Images.

In the first regulatory agenda of the Trump administration, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget detailed when and how agencies plan to repeal numerous Obama administration rules regarding air and water pollution, fossil fuel extraction, and more.

Many of the rollbacks had already been announced, though some new timelines or justifications were revealed.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it plans to repeal the Clean Power Plan, limiting carbon dioxide output from power plants, “on grounds that it exceeds the statutory authority” given to the agency in the Clean Air Act.The EPA did not provide a timeline for when it will complete the regulatory process to repeal the climate change regulation. It will require a proposed regulation, comment period, and final rule.

Former President Barack Obama’s Clean Water Rule, also known as “waters of the United States,” is also on the chopping block.

The EPA revealed in the regulatory agenda that it plans to propose a replacement for the water rule in December. It has already formally proposed to repeal the 2015 Obama rule but did not provide a timeline for completing that repeal process.

Read the full story here.

Reuters | 24 July 2017

White House Deregulation Push Clears Out Hundreds of Proposed Rules

The White House said on 20 July that it had withdrawn or removed from active consideration more than 800 proposed regulations that were never finalized during the Obama administration as it works to shrink the federal government’s regulatory footprint.

In a report, the Trump administration said it had withdrawn 469 planned actions that had been part of the Obama administration’s regulatory agenda published last fall. Officials also reconsidered 391 active regulatory proceedings by reclassifying them as long-term or inactive “allowing for further careful review,” the White House said.

The steps to eliminate regulations makes good on a much-repeated Trump campaign promise to promote business-friendly policies. Investors have anticipated the action, helping to push share prices higher on hopes that fewer regulations will boost business growth and lead to higher corporate profits.

The Trump administration has identified nearly 300 regulations related to energy production and environmental protection it plans to rescind, review or delay across three agencies—the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior and Energy Departments.

Trump had identified several of the regulations as targets in his March executive orders on energy, but they will now undergo a formal rulemaking process to be rescinded or revised.

Read the full story here.

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.

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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.

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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.