PSA | 16 March 2017

PSA Releases New Version of Barrier Memorandum

Barriers have been part of the Norwegian Petroleum Safety Authority’s (PSA) regulations since 2002, but the industry’s implementation of the requirements has taken time.

The PSA has been monitoring the industry’s work on barrier management for a number of years. The barrier memorandum, which explains the regulatory requirements and describes good barrier management, was first published in 2011 and then updated in 2013. The PSA’s barrier memorandum has now been updated. The new version includes a clearer explanation of what barriers are and expounds on the interaction between technical, organizational, and operational barrier elements.

Gerhard Ersdal, an engineer with the PSA, explained the reason for the update. “Audits and investigations have shown that the companies have largely not identified the human contribution to barriers, meaning who does what, with which equipment, in order for a barrier to realize its function. Mainly, they have only defined requirements for the technical barrier elements,” he said. “Audits and investigations have also shown that there is great variation in what is considered a barrier. A couple of years ago, the PSA initiated a project to promote more consistent barrier management, including also the human components.”

Read the full story here.

Morgan Lewis via Mondaq | 16 March 2017

Trump Executive Order Seeks To Limit Scope of Clean Water Act

On 28 February , President Donald Trump issued an executive order asking the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Army Corps of Engineers to repeal or revise a 2015 rule interpreting the term “waters of the United States,” which determines the jurisdictional reach of the Clean Water Act.

The executive order asks agencies to repeal or revise an Obama-era rule defining the scope of the Clean Water Act and recommends adoption of a narrower standard articulated by the late Justice Scalia.

The order recommends that the agencies consider crafting a new definition based on the “continuous surface connection” test adopted by a plurality of the US Supreme Court in Rapanos v. United States, which would result in a significant contraction in the Clean Water Act’s scope from the Obama EPA’s 2015 rule.

The 2015 rule was met with extensive criticism by some stakeholders and gave rise to a flurry of litigation. A new rule issued in response to President Trump’s executive order is likely to do the same—resulting in continued uncertainty as to the proper scope of the Clean Water Act and possibly requiring further review by the Supreme Court to resolve the question.

Reuters | 2 March 2017

Aggressive Cuts to Obama-Era Green Rules To Start Soon: EPA Head

US President Donald Trump’s administration will begin rolling back Obama-era environmental regulations in an “aggressive way” soon, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency said on 25 February, adding he understood why some Americans want to see his agency eliminated completely.

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, speaks to employees of the agency in Washington on 21 February. Credit: Reuters/Joshua Roberts.

“I think there are some regulations that in the near-term need to be rolled back in a very aggressive way. And I think maybe next week you may be hearing about some of those,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told the Conservative Political Action summit in Washington DC.

Pruitt added the EPA’s focus on combating climate change under former President Barack Obama had cost jobs and prevented economic growth, leading many Americans to want to see the EPA eliminated completely.

“I think its justified,” he said. “I think people across this country look at the EPA much like they look at the IRS. I hope to be able to change that.”

Read the full story here.

FuelFix | 30 January 2017

House Republicans Ready Bill To Overturn Methane Rule

Congressional Republicans are not wasting any time going after former president Barack Obama’s climate change legacy.

Credit: Matt Houston/AP.

House Republicans are putting the final touches on legislation to overturn an Obama executive order limiting the amount of methane that can be vented and flared from oil and gas drilling sites on federal lands. The bill, along with another piece of legislation overturning an order protecting streams and wildlife around coal mines, is set to be introduced on 30 January.

“These are abusive, last minute regulations that are grossly inconsistent with congressional intent,” Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a conference call on 27 January. “They will impose a real and unnecessary cost on American people and communities.”

A day after a Republican retreat in Philadelphia headlined by President Donald Trump, party leaders are gearing up to roll back federal regulation at large. At a meeting in the White House earlier this week, Trump told business leaders he wants to see federal rules reduced by three quarters.


Read the full story here.

Sun Sentinel | 25 January 2017

Florida Fracturing Ban Becomes Bipartisan Goal for 2017

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers called for a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing on 24 January, adding the heft of members of the Republican majority to what has been a years-long goal of South Florida Democrats.

State Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa, filed a bill on 23 January that would ban the practice in Florida, and state Rep. Mike Miller, R-Orlando, is set to file similar legislation in the House.

“This bill is concise and straightforward. It bans fracking of all types in Florida,” Young said at a news conference in Tallahassee.

Young’s bill would ban all sorts of well-stimulation treatments. That includes hydraulic fracturing as well as less-well-known but similar practices such as acid treatments, in which chemicals are sent underground to dissolve rock and allow easier access to oil and natural gas.

In South Florida, Miami-Dade and Broward counties banned fracturing last year, while Palm Beach County came out in support of a statewide ban.

Read the full story here.

The Wall Street Journal | 18 January 2017

Barrasso Declines to Elaborate on GOP Plans for Obama’s Climate Rules

After years of lambasting President Barack Obama’s climate agenda, an effort to repeal his legacy on the matter was not named a top priority for the new Republican chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, at the 11 January 2017 hearing considering the nomination of Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state. Credit: Zuma Press.

Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, at the 11 January 2017 hearing considering the nomination of Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state. Credit: Zuma Press.

“I’ll work with the administration on that,” Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), chairman of the panel, said in response to a reporter’s question on 17 January about whether he will prioritize climate policy on the committee. “We want to make energy as clean as we can as fast as we can in ways that don’t raise the costs.”

Barrasso declined to elaborate more on to what extent, if at all, he will focus on climate change policy in legislation or hearings over the next 2 years. He instead listed other issues, such as repealing a water rule and overhauling endangered species laws, as top priorities.

That reluctance is striking because congressional Republicans have spent a good deal of time since 2010 holding press conferences and hearings criticizing Obama’s climate regulations, in particular an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule cutting carbon emissions from power plants. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to repeal EPA’s carbon rule, but he hasn’t said how or when.

Since the election, lobbyists working for and against fossil-fuel interests have tried to determine how far Republicans will go to dismantle Obama’s climate rules. GOP leaders could take such steps as prohibiting the EPA from regulating carbon emissions or reviewing a scientific finding the EPA issued in 2009 that legally underpins the outgoing administration’s entire climate agenda.

Washington Examiner | 17 January 2017

Federal Judge Allows Hydraulic Fracturing Rules To Move Ahead

A federal court on 16 January refused to halt the Obama administration’s hydraulic fracturing regulations that go into effect on 17 January.

The rules restrict the venting and flaring of natural gas and methane from oil and gas wells as part of the Obama administration’s broad climate agenda. Methane is a short-lived but potent greenhouse gas that many climate scientists blame for driving manmade climate change.

Despite the unfavorable ruling, the oil and gas industry says it thinks it can win on the merits of its arguments.

The federal district court in Wyoming ruled that it “cannot conclude the rule enacted exceeds the secretary’s authority or is arbitrary and capricious,” according to the decision written by Judge Scott Skavdahl.

KCTS | 9 January 2016

West Coast Lawmakers Seek Ban on Offshore Drilling

West Coast lawmakers are seeking a permanent ban on offshore drilling along the coast of Washington, Oregon, and California. Democrat-sponsored bills have been introduced into both the Senate and House of Representatives.

There have been no oil and gas lease sales off the West Coast since 1984. But, as the Trump administration prepares to take office, concerns are growing that could change.

“With a new administration signaling a dangerous willingness to put polluters in charge, it is more important than ever to ensure that Oregon’s coastline is protected,” said Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, a sponsor of the Senate bill along with fellow Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden. They cited a need to protect coastal economies, which they say are worth a combined USD 60 billion and 650,000 jobs between the three states.

Legislation to ban drilling off the West Coast was first introduced in 2010. A temporary ban on West Coast offshore drilling expires in 2022.

UPI | 9 January 2017

US Oil and Gas Lobby Calls for Industry-Led Energy Revolution

The leading oil and gas lobbying group in the United States called on leaders in Washington to release the reins of regulation for the sake of the nation.

Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, called on the new leadership in Washington to release strains of what the energy industry’s lobby group sees as burdensome regulations. Credit: Kevin Dietsch/UPI.

“It is our view that regulations that do not align with those basic and commonsense goals should be reexamined, revised or removed to make way for smarter and forward-looking energy policies,” Jack Gerard, the president and CEO at the American Petroleum Institute, said in an annual address in Washington.

The incoming administration of Donald Trump has vowed to make it so the United States is no longer dependent on other countries for its natural resources. Trump, in a statement outlining his energy policies, envisions a United States that’s a net energy exporter by encouraging more onshore and offshore energy production.

The API, which lobbies on behalf of the oil and gas industry, said Trump’s administration could unravel regulatory burdens standing in the way of a more robust U.S. energy sector. By Gerard’s estimate, more than 140 regulations or executive actions were enacted under President Barack Obama that work against, not for, the industry’s objectives.

Total US oil production when Obama entered office in 2009 was 5.3 million B/D. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates a 2016 average of 8.9 million B/D, a 66% increase.

The Hill | 5 January 2017

Court Delays Appeal Over Obama’s Hydraulic Fracturing Rule

A federal court on 4 January delayed oral arguments in the Obama administration’s appeal to reinstate its hydraulic fracturing regulation for federal lands for 2 months.

Credit: Getty Images.

Credit: Getty Images.

The Denver-based Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit made its decision without a request by a party in the case. It means that attorneys working for President-elect Donald Trump will be in charge of the federal government’s appeal.

Oral arguments will now take place the week of 20 March, when litigants will have an hour to present their cases to the three-judge panel. The court in November had scheduled a half-hour of arguments on 17 January, 3 days before Trump takes office.

The Justice Department filed the appeal in June on behalf of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which wrote the hydraulic fracturing rule in 2015. It challenges a decision from Judge Scott Skavdahl. The Wyoming-based federal judge ruled that the BLM is specifically prohibited under a 2005 law from regulating hydraulic fracturing on federal land.

CBS Baltimore | 4 January 2017

Maryland Legislative Committee Puts Hold on Hydraulic Fracturing Regulations

A panel of state lawmakers is delaying regulations for hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in western Maryland.

The Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review Committee asked the Department of the Environment on 29 December to delay adopting the regulations. Final adoption would have occurred on 30 December.

The panel’s letter says it wants to study the regulations further. The committee requested copies of public comments on the proposed rules.

Agency spokesman Jay Apperson says the department will provide the material.

The committee’s action delays adoption of the rules at least into the legislative session, which begins11  January.

StateImpact | 30 December 2016

Court Tells EPA To Review Its Rules on Oil and Gas Waste

A federal court directed the US Environmental Protection Agency to review and possibly update its regulations on oil and gas waste in a decision that was welcomed by environmental groups who had sued the agency, claiming its rules have failed to keep pace with the hydraulic fracturing boom.

A truck delivers drilling waste water to a fracturing water recycling plant in Susquehanna County. Credit: Susan Phillips/StateImpact Pennsylvania.

A truck delivers drilling waste water to a fracturing water recycling plant in Susquehanna County. Credit: Susan Phillips/StateImpact Pennsylvania.

The US District Court for the District of Columbia issued a consent decree late 28 December saying the EPA must review the regulations and if necessary issue a new rule if it deems an update to be appropriate. The actions must take place by March 2019, the court said.

The consent decree, which is designed to settle a dispute between two parties without either admitting guilt or liability, is the outcome of a lawsuit against EPA by seven environmental groups who claimed that the agency has failed to review oil and gas waste regulations as required every 3 years under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976.

In the suit, filed in May, the plaintiffs said existing regulations are too weak to stop the escape of toxic materials such as benzene and mercury that have been used in the hydraulic fracturing boom since the mid-2000s.