EPA Releases Report on Pro-Growth Energy-Related Actions

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week released a report on its actions to implement President Trump’s “Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth” (E.O. 17838).

Issued on March 28, E.O. 17838 directs each agency head to “review” and “appropriately suspend, revise, or rescind” all of the agency’s regulations, orders, guidance documents, and other policies that “unduly burden the development of domestic energy resources beyond the degree necessary to protect the public interest or otherwise comply with the law.”

The E.O. also requires each agency to issue a corresponding report with “specific recommendations that, to the extent permitted by law, could alleviate or eliminate aspects of agency actions that burden domestic energy production.”

To inform its review, the EPA in April asked for public comment. The agency received more than 460,000 comments, including a record-breaking number of 63,346 individual responses.

The agency’s final report, published October 25, discusses nine actions the EPA has taken on regulations specifically identified for review by E.O. 13783 and others identified by the agency. The report also outlines four initiatives the EPA is undertaking to address broad concerns raised by the public.

Looking first at rules flagged by E.O. 13783, on March 28, the EPA commenced review of the Obama administration’s marquee domestic climate policy, the so-called Clean Power Plan (CPP), which established first-ever carbon dioxide (CO2) emission standards for existing power plants. On October 23, the EPA proposed to repeal the CPP. In the same action, the agency proposed to repeal the associated federal emissions trading guidelines and auxiliary market-rigging scheme dubbed the Clean Energy Incentive Program.

Also on March 28, the EPA commenced review of the CPP’s prerequisite regulation, the so-called Carbon Pollution Standards rule for new, modified, and reconstructed power plants. On March 30, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to hold litigation on the rule in abeyance pending completion of the EPA’s review.

Similarly, the Court agreed on May 18 to hold in abeyance litigation on a June 2016 oil and gas methane emissions rule until EPA completes its review—a process that could take two years.

Turning now to actions identified by the agency, on March 2, the EPA withdrew a November 2016 request for information on methane emissions from oil and gas industry equipment—a paperwork burden estimated to impose 284,751 hours of work on 15,000 owners and operators. On March 15, EPA Administrator Pruitt and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao mothballed the Obama EPA’s midnight (January 2017) regulation establishing stringent greenhouse gas emission standards for model year 2022-2025 motor vehicles, and on August 21, the two agency heads proposed to reconsider those standards. On September 18, the EPA issued a final rule postponing compliance deadlines pending its review of a 2015 Obama EPA rule setting new standards for wastewater discharges from coal power plants.

The EPA’s press release summarizes the four broad initiatives the agency is undertaking responsive to public comments:

· New Source Review reform (NSR)—the EPA is establishing an NSR Reform Task Force to review and simplify the NSR application and permit process.

· National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) reform—the EPA plans to use the newly formed Ozone Cooperative Compliance Task Force to review administrative options to meaningfully improve air quality as it relates to ozone. The EPA will also work to streamline the approval of state air pollution plans, and eliminate the agency’s backlog of state pollution plans.

· Robust Evaluations of the Employment Effects of EPA regulations—Regulations impose high costs on American workers, particularly in the energy sector. Five environmental statutes state that the EPA conduct continuing evaluations of potential shifts in employment that may result from implementation of these statutes. The agency historically has not conducted these assessments. The EPA intends to conduct these evaluations consistent with the statutes.

· Reestablishing the Smart Sectors Program—The EPA recently relaunched the Smart Sectors program to reexamine how it engages with American businesses to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens, while protecting human health and the environment.