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Obama Administration Releases Updated Regulatory Agenda

A host of federal agencies have updated their regulatory agendas as part of the Fall 2015 Unified Agenda and Regulatory Plan released late last week by the Obama administration, offering hints about what to expect from a number of key regulations affecting the oil and gas industry.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to move forward on its controversial Clean Power Plan, an effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants. For states that do not submit their own implementation plans for the rule, the EPA has said it will supply a federal implementation plan. The agency now says it intends to finalize what that federal implementation plan will look like by September 2016.

Next month, the EPA plans to release documentation explicitly considering the costs of implementing its Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) emissions limits for power plants. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the EPA had failed to adequately consider costs in propagating MATS, remanding the rule to the D.C. Circuit Court (see Daily GPI, June 29). The MATS rule has been cited as a factor in the shuttering of a number of older coal-fired power plants across the U.S.

After proposing a rule this year to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas industry by 40-45% below 2012 levels by 2025 (see Daily GPI, Jan. 14), the EPA currently plans to issue a final version of the rule sometime in June 2016. The methane rule is part of the Obama administration’s plan to curb climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. According to the most recent figures provided by the agency, the EPA will seek to cut methane emissions from oil and gas extraction and completion activities by as much as 400,000 short tons by 2025 (see Shale Daily, Aug. 18).

As early as next month, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) expects to release its proposed rule on venting and flaring of gas from onshore wells located on federal lands, according to the rule’s updated entry in the Unified Agenda. The proposed flaring regulations have been under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (see Shale Daily, Sept. 23).

BLM has also been seeking comments on possible changes to its oil and gas regulations “with respect to royalty rates, rental payments, minimum acceptable bids, bonding requirements and civil penalty assessments.” A proposed rule is scheduled for release in March.

Also in the Department of the Interior, the National Park Service has proposed tightening its oversight of oil and gas activity on federal lands (see Daily GPI, Oct. 27). The public comment period for the proposed rule ends Dec. 28, and the agency plans to issue a final rule as early as June.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) could release a notice of proposed rulemaking as early as next month on an update to regulations “addressing integrity management principles for Gas Transmission pipelines.” According to the agency, the updates will address repair criteria, assessment methods, corrosion control, validating and integrating pipeline data, safety features on launchers and receivers and more. PHMSA will also be reviewing its definition of a high consequence area.

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