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Trump Administration Plans to Continue Dismantling Obama-Era Rules in 2019

The Trump administration plans to continue dismantling a host of regulations enacted during the Obama era, including several that affect the oil and gas industry.

The White House's Office of Management and Budget on Wednesday released a Unified Agenda (UA) that projects $18 billion in regulatory cost savings for 2019. The UA also outlined the 2019 plans at numerous government departments and agencies, including the Interior and Energy (DOE) departments and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

"Regulatory reform is a cornerstone of President Trump's agenda for economic growth," wrote Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Administrator Neomi Rao. "This plan reaffirms the principles of individual liberty and limited government essential to reform."

According to the UA, Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is considering revising rules issued in November 2016 for oil and gas site security, as well as for measuring oil and natural gas.

Although the initial rules were promulgated following "external and internal oversight reviews, which found that many of the BLM's production measurement and accountability policies were outdated and inconsistently applied," a follow-up review led the BLM to consider a rulemaking action designed to "reduce unnecessary and overly burdensome regulatory requirements."

Meanwhile, the UA said Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) had "reconsidered its financial assurance policies" that were in a 2016 notice to lessees related to offshore oil and gas activities.

"BOEM is currently working on a proposed rule to protect taxpayers from unnecessary liabilities while minimizing unnecessary regulatory burdens on industry," the UA said.

BOEM is said to be completing a final rule on offshore air quality control, reporting and compliance. The UA said the rule is designed to implement BOEM's statutory responsibility to ensure that operations in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) are conducted under an approved plan, and that the operations comply with statutory mandates. The final rule now under development by BOEM is more limited than a rule that was published in April 2016 by the Obama administration.

The UA also said BOEM, after consultation and a joint review with its twin Interior agency the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), is considering whether to scrap all or parts of a final rule covering oil, natural gas and sulfur operations on the OCS. The parts of the rule in question cover requirements for exploratory drilling on the Arctic OCS. The original rule was published in July 2016.

BSEE also plans next year to take further action on the well control rule that was issued in April 2016 in response to the 2010 Macondo well blowout. BSEE reviewed the well control rule and issued a proposed rule in May. In developing the proposed rule, the bureau identified 59 of the 342 provisions for possible revision or deletion.

The UA said DOI is also developing a rule "to update and streamline" processes under the National Environmental Policy Act.

At the DOE, the UA said the department was currently "engaged in a number of deregulatory activities aimed at reducing regulatory costs and burdens," including efforts to expedite and simplify the process for selling oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. DOE also published a final rule to provide faster approval of applications for small-scale exports of natural gas, including liquefied natural gas, from U.S. export facilities.

EPA is said to be continuing its review of the Clean Power Plan. Specifically, it is looking into a final rule issued during the Obama administration that established standards for states to follow in developing plans to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units (EGU), and a separate final rule that established CO2 emissions standards for newly constructed, modified and reconstructed fossil fuel-fired EGUs.

EPA is also reviewing its new source performance standards for oil and gas, and plans to issue a proposal for public comment this fall.

The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are also reportedly in the second phase of their process to revise the controversial definition of what constitutes Waters of the United States (WOTUS). Last February, EPA and the Army Corps successfully delayed an Obama-era rule on WOTUS from taking effect until 2020.

"Until the new [WOTUS] definition is finalized, the agencies will continue to implement the regulatory definition in place prior to the 2015 rule consistent with Supreme Court decisions and practice, and as informed by applicable agency guidance documents," the UA said.

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