Under President Donald Trump, federal agencies have moved to roll back regulations for companies that extract, transport, and burn oil, gas, and coal. Government analyses show companies will save billions of dollars in compliance costs, but the trade-off often will be adverse impacts to public health and the environment.
The Rule Changes
Fuel Train Brakes: Citing high costs, Trump’s administration rescinded a 2015 Department of Transportation rule requiring railroads to begin installing more advanced electronic brakes on trains hauling hazardous fuels.
Industry Savings: $375 million–$554 million (2018–2037)
Impact: Additional derailments of tank cars. The AP found the government understated potential impacts by as much as $117 million.
Methane Emissions: Administration wants to eliminate 2016 Environmental Protection Agency rule requiring energy companies to reduce flaring of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
Industry Savings: $380 million–$484 million (2019–2025)
Impacts: Emission increases of 380,000 tons of methane, 100,000 tons of volatile organic compounds, 3,800 tons of hazardous air pollutants; adverse health effects including premature deaths, heart attacks, and respiratory problems; potential reductions in visibility.
Methane Emissions: Administration largely eliminated Interior Department’s 2016 “waste prevention rule” that required companies to reduce the flaring of methane on public and tribal lands.
Industry Savings: $1.4 billion–$2.1 billion (2019–2028)
Impacts: Emission increases of 1.8 million tons of greenhouse gas methane; 800,000 tons of volatile organic compounds that can harm health; unspecified public health and welfare impacts.
Clean Power Plan: Administration is proposing replacement of EPA’s 2015 rule that aimed to cut US greenhouse gas emissions by focusing on carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants. The changes are projected to increase annual coal production by 33 million–40 million tons by 2030.
Industry Savings: $3.7 billion–$6.4 billion (2023–2037)
Impacts: Emissions increases of up to 61 million tons of carbon dioxide, 52,000 tons of sulfur oxides, and 39,000 tons of nitrous oxides annually by 2030; health effects including up to 1,400 premature deaths, 750 nonfatal heart attacks in 2030; reductions in visibility; ecosystem effects.
Coal Ash Disposal: Administration removed many mandates from 2015 EPA rule aimed at preventing hundreds of spills from toxic coal ash dumps over the next century.
Industry Savings: $397 million–$605 million (100 years)
Impact: EPA says that, with other existing federal and state regulations, there will be no additional risks to human health and environment. Critics disagree.
Hydraulic Fracturing: Administration rescinded 2015 Interior Department rule that lowered the risk of water contamination from hydraulic fracturing.
Industry Savings: $102 million–$339 million (2018–2027)
Impact: Increased risk to surface waters, groundwater supplies.
Offshore Drilling Safety: Administration dropped requirements for third-party safety equipment inspections from a rule enacted after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Industry Savings: $92 million–$131 million (2019–2028)
Impacts: Administration says the changes will have a negligible effect on safety and environmental protection; critics say it raises the risk of accidents.
Offshore Drilling Blowouts: Administration wants more flexibility in how companies meet safety and equipment standards in 2016 Interior rule requiring more stringent inspections of devices designed to prevent offshore oil spills.
Industry Savings: $693 million–$946 million (2018–2027)
Impacts: Administration says the changes will not affect worker safety and environmental protection; critics say it raises the risk of accidents.
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