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Senate energy panel OKs Energy, Interior picks; Obama's final regs postponed


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Senate energy panel OKs Energy, Interior picks; Obama's final regs postponed

Senate energy panel approves picks to lead Energy, Interior departments

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources voted Jan. 31 to approve nominees to two key administration posts that will affect the energy sector. The committee gave a green light to Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., President Donald Trump's pick to helm the U.S. Department of the Interior, and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Energy.

In his confirmation hearing, Zinke stressed the importance of local input into decisions about the use of federal lands. Perry, who as a presidential candidate had expressed a desire to eliminate the Department of Energy, said he would be committed to modernizing the country's nuclear stockpile, promoting all forms of energy and enhancing grid security.

EPA delays effective date of 30 rules in line with regulatory freeze

The U.S. EPA will put on hold a number of regulations that were issued in the final months of the Obama administration, including implementation plans for reducing various pollutants and new guidelines for air modeling.

According to a Jan. 25 notice, the EPA will delay the implementation of industry regulations published in the Federal Register between Oct. 28, 2016, and Jan. 17, 2017. The order targets 30 regulations that had yet to become effective and will put them on hold until March 21.

EPA's chaotic first week under Trump continues with pledge to review research

The week following President Donald Trump's inauguration has been a tumultuous one for the U.S. EPA, with leaks from inside the agency describing a gag order imposed on staff, a grants program for climate change initiatives put on hold and an attempt to scrub the agency's webpage housing climate change data.

During the daily press briefing Jan. 25, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer denied that there have been any directives handed down from the administration. But an official associated with the Trump administration's EPA "beachhead team" later spoke to the media announcing that scientific research conducted by the EPA may be subject to "case by case" review, according to NPR.

Report: Trump team relents on order to scrub climate change from EPA website

Multiple media outlets reported Jan. 25 that staff at the U.S. EPA had been ordered to scrub climate change information from the agency's expansive website, but later reports said the Trump administration had backed down from the directive.

Citing two unnamed EPA staffers, Reuters reported that the directive to remove the information came from administration officials. The employees reportedly said they were notified Jan. 24 that communications personnel had been instructed to remove the website's climate change section as early as the following day.

"If the website goes dark, years of work we have done on climate change will disappear," one of the EPA sources reportedly told Reuters.

Trump signs executive order eliminating regulations 2-for-1

After hosting a meeting with small business leaders in the Oval Office on Jan. 30, President Donald Trump followed through on a promise to reduce regulations by signing an executive order that would remove two regulations for each new regulation enacted.

The reduction was originally mentioned on the campaign trail, during which Trump criticized regulations affecting the energy, environmental, financial and housing sectors. Key to Trump's economic promises is a plan to revive the coal industry, which he touted as an "energy revolution" that he would use to pay off the national debt.

Harvard professor blasts Trump '2 for 1' order; libertarians offer praise

An executive order signed Jan. 30 by President Donald Trump requiring the elimination of two regulations for each new regulation enacted "is arbitrary, not implementable, and a terrible idea," according to Harvard Law professor Jody Freeman.

Freeman noted that while most major public health, consumer protection, workplace safety and other rules cost money, the "enormous social benefits" they produce dramatically outweigh those costs.

House GOP set to use Congressional Review Act to try to scrap 2 energy rules

The U.S. House of Representatives will soon vote on measures to scrap two contentious environmental regulations put in place late in the Obama administration, the chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources said Jan. 27.

Speaking on a conference call, U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said two joint resolutions of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act would be brought to the House floor Jan. 30 calling for the rollback of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement's Stream Protection Rule, implemented in December 2016, and the Bureau of Land Management's Venting and Flaring Rule, implemented in November 2016.

US House set to vote soon on Stream Protection Rule for coal producers

The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote soon on a resolution to overturn the U.S. Department of the Interior's Stream Protection Rule affecting coal producers, one of several regulations that Republicans hope to rescind with Donald Trump in the White House.

Matt Sparks, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the House would vote on the measure by Feb. 3.

Mining group challenges 'critically flawed' Obama stream protection rule

The National Mining Association has filed a complaint against the Obama administration over its Stream Protection Rule.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleges the rule imposes requirements that will be difficult or impossible for underground mines to meet. It also suggests the rule oversteps its bounds in other ways, including infringing upon states' regulatory primacy, overstepping its authority as it pertains to fish and wildlife, and unlawfully defining certain terms.

Stream Protection Rule rollback will bring coal incremental relief, analysts say

An expected vote to overturn the Stream Protection Rule by the House of Representatives this week is likely to provide incremental relief to coal producers in Appalachia and the Illinois Basin, according to analysts. A Jan. 30 policy update from FBR & Co.'s Benjamin Salisbury and Cory Palmer said longwall producers in Northern Appalachia are particularly affected by the rule.

They said the rule would have increased surface mining costs by $71 million per year and underground mining costs by $10 million per year from 2020 to 2040 across the industry, which is 0.1% of aggregate yearly industry revenues. Salisbury and Palmer noted that Northern Appalachia would have absorbed $33 million of the $81 million total, while the Illinois Basin would have absorbed $25 million.