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Energy valuation reform rule repealed; Pruitt cleared from greens' complaint


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Energy valuation reform rule repealed; Pruitt cleared from greens' complaint

Interior repeals Obama-era energy valuation reform rule

The U.S. Office of Natural Resources Revenue, or ONRR, is repealing the Obama-era federal energy valuation reform rule.

The agency proposed to end the Consolidated Federal Oil & Gas and Federal & Indian Coal Valuation Reform Final Rule in April after putting a pause on it in February. The rule was announced in the summer of 2016 and took effect Jan. 1.

ONRR said in the Federal Register published Aug. 7 that it was repealing the reform in its entirety. "ONRR discovered several significant defects in the rule that would have undermined its purpose and intent," the ONRR said in the Federal Register.

EPA integrity board clears Pruitt in Sierra Club complaint

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has been cleared in a complaint made by the Sierra Club over his March comments on climate change.

Pruitt said in an interview with CNBC on March 9 that he did not "agree that [carbon dioxide is] a primary contributor to the global warming that we see." In a complaint to the EPA's Scientific Integrity Officer, the Sierra Club alleged that Pruitt's remarks violated the agency's Scientific Integrity Policy.

After reviewing the complaint, the Scientific Integrity Committee has cleared Pruitt of any wrongdoing. "The freedom to express one's opinion about science is fundamental to EPA's Scientific Integrity Policy even (and especially) when that point of view might be controversial," Thomas Sinks, director of the Office of the Science Advisor, wrote in a letter on behalf of the panel that reviewed the complaint. "The [policy] explicitly protects differing opinions."

Senate approves Trump pick for DOE deputy secretary

The U.S. Senate voted in favor of confirming Dan Brouillette as deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, giving Energy Secretary Rick Perry his second in command.

The Senate voted 79-17 on Aug. 3 to confirm his nomination.

Neil Chatterjee sworn in as FERC commissioner

Neil Chatterjee has been sworn in as the newest commissioner at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a spokeswoman for the agency said in an Aug. 8 email.

Chatterjee, a former energy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joins Acting Chair Cheryl LaFleur at FERC, which has five commissioners when full.

The Senate on Aug. 3 voted to confirm Chatterjee and Robert Powelson, a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.

Environmentalists frustrated as utilities, states step back from effluent rule

Three and a half months since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told states they did not need to meet compliance deadlines associated with a 2015 rule requiring utilities to curtail the discharge of toxic metals from power plants into the nation's waterways, environmental groups are frustrated that many of them have stopped their compliance efforts even though they could have continued with that work.

Phillip Musegaas, vice president for programs and litigation at the Potomac Riverkeeper Network, said the Maryland Department of the Environment has backed off of enforcing the effluent rule in two open permit applications regarding the coal-fired Morgantown and Dickerson power plants, both of which are owned by NRG Energy Inc.

"We were counting on Maryland as the backstop, and unfortunately they're backing away from their responsibilities," Musegaas said in an interview July 31.

EPA reverses plan to delay 2015 ozone designations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made a surprise announcement Aug. 2 that it will stick with designating attainment and nonattainment areas for its 2015 ozone standard in October, reversing its decision in June to delay that deadline by a year.

The EPA gave little indication why it changed its position but noted that past delays on designations had spurred citizen lawsuits.

"Under previous administrations, EPA would often fail to meet designation deadlines, and then wait to be sued by activist groups and others, agreeing in a settlement to set schedules for designation," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said. "We do not believe in regulation through litigation, and we take deadlines seriously. We also take the statute and the authority it gives us seriously."