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White House Plan Would Scrap Hundreds of Regulations, Including Clean Power Plan, NSPS Updates

The Trump administration, following through on a promise to cut regulations, including many made during the Obama era, unveiled plans to repeal or scuttle hundreds of existing or planned rules across the federal government, including many that affect the oil and natural gas industry.

On Thursday, the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a Unified Agenda (UA) requiring long-term actions by numerous government departments and agencies, including FERC, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Interior and Energy departments.

Altogether, the UA calls for the elimination of 860 pending regulations -- 469 through an outright withdrawal and 391 through reconsideration.

"By amending and eliminating regulations that are ineffective, duplicative, and obsolete, the administration can promote economic growth and innovation and protect individual liberty," the OMB said.

Clean Power Plan, NSPS updates targeted

Among the 63 long-term actions required of the EPA, the Trump administration proposed that the agency withdraw the Clean Power Plan "on the grounds that it exceeds the statutory authority provided under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act." A separate action calls for the EPA to review its 2016 New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), which were designed to reduce methane, volatile organic compounds and toxic air pollutants.

The UA did not specify a timeline for either action to be taken.

A 21-page inactive action list, released in tandem with the UA, shows that a proposed rule to add natural gas processing facilities to the list of industrial sectors currently required to send information annually for the agency's Toxics Release Inventory public database has also been mothballed. The GPA Midstream Association had opposed the rule.

"This proposed rule was duplicative, unnecessarily administratively burdensome, costly, and based on bad data," GPA Midstream CEO Mark Sutton said in a statement Thursday. "We are thrilled with EPA's decision to move this rule to the inactive list and grateful that they listened to our concerns."

Additionally, the UA calls for EPA to issue a final rule to update specific elements of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System regulations by December 2018. The agency will also update the codifying programs for the Underground Injection Control program used by the states. The latter is being performed to ensure the EPA is prepared to bring a direct enforcement action against a regulated entity, either at the request of a state or if EPA determines a state has failed to bring an enforcement action on its own.

EPA first unveiledthe 2016 NSPS during the Obama administration. The rules were designed to reduce methane, volatile organic compounds and toxic air pollutants, and cover the fugitive emissions, pneumatic pump and professional engineer certification requirements.

Last April, the EPA said it would reconsider the rules to comply with an executive order (EO) signed by President Trump on March 28. The EO included a directive for EPA to immediately review regulations on energy sources, and then to either suspend, revise or rescind them.

The EPA issued a 90-day administrative stay of the rules on May 31. In order to ensure against a gap in the stay during the reconsideration process, the agency proposed an additional three-month stay, followed by another lasting two years. A federal appeals court removed the stay earlier this month, prompting the EPA to take the unusual step of asking the court to recall its mandate, thereby giving the agency more time to weigh its options.

At the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the inactive action list also shows the Trump administration has mothballed a rule [RIN 1902-AE30] governing capacity transfers on intrastate natural gas pipelines, and a separate rule [1902-AE48] covering revised public utility filing requirements for electric quarterly reports.

None of the 10 long-term actions required of the Interior Department appear to directly affect the oil and gas industry. Nor do an additional 14 long-term actions placed by the UA on the Energy Department.

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