While Trump Cools Federal Efforts to Move Forward with Climate Change Some States Heat Up
On May 18, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted the request by the Trump administration to delay lawsuits involving the proposed regulations of methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. American Petroleum Institute (API) et al v. EPA et al, (No. 13-1108). The Trump administration is reviewing numerous proposed rules from the Obama administration and is expected to withdraw, weaken or delay some of them—including rules related to issues associated with climate change. See here.
The federal pause on climate change regulation contrasts with states such as Virginia, New York and Pennsylvania that are moving forward with plans to more aggressively regulate air emissions. On May 16, 2017, Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia directed his administration to develop regulations to limit emissions from fossil fuel fired power plants, explaining that Virginia “cannot afford to sit idly by” as President Trump rolls back the Clean Power Plan. See here. Likewise, on May 17, 2017, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York announced his administration’s “Methane Reduction Plan” which seeks to limit methane emissions from New York’s agricultural, oil and gas and landfill sectors in response to President Trump’s efforts to abandon three major efforts to address methane emissions from oil and gas operations. See here.
Finally, in Pennsylvania public comment closes on June 5, 2017, on the proposal by the Pennsylvania DEP to revise its general permit program for air emissions from the oil and gas sector as a result of Democratic Governor Wolf’s Methane Reduction Strategy which he announced on January 19, 2016. The proposed revisions would eliminate exemption 38 for unconventional wells and create a new General Permit GP-5A. Industry trade groups are commenting but expect programmatic changes to become final via publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin in the summer or fall.
While Republican control of the White House and Congress allows the federal government to curtail efforts to implement climate change regulations, some Democratic states are pushing on. The oil and gas and other industries must remain vigilant as to regulatory changes. The changing regulatory landscape may invite strategic moves such as Noble Energy’s decision to divest upstream Marcellus assets to focus on “higher margin onshore assets” in states that are not striving to have the most rigorous regulatory programs. See here.