Last Monday, President-Elect Donald Trump announced in his first video address that he will begin to cut energy regulations that block job growth, including rules regarding the production of shale and coal.
The initiative was listed among his "first 100 days" goals, and falls in line with his campaign promises to increase coal-related jobs and to cut US environmental regulations.
"I will cancel job-killing restrictions on the production of American energy, including shale energy and clean coal, creating many millions of high paying jobs," Trump said in his address Monday.
Trump didn't elaborate on what those "job-killing restrictions" are, but there are a few regulations the Obama Administration put into place—and a few the president nixed—that Trump might be eager to tackle. There are also regulations that were put in place prior to the Obama Administration that oil and gas groups have been vocal about for the past few years. Here are a few of them:
The Keystone XL Pipeline and Dakota Access Pipeline
These two major pipeline projects have been largely put on hold. President Barack Obama vetoed the Keystone XL Pipeline bill in 2015, citing safety and environmental concerns, but Trump has stated in his speeches that one of his goals would be to that project moving.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is the newest incarnation of a plan to create a multi-state oil pipeline. The US Army Corps of Engineers announced earlier this month that they were putting the project on hold while they spoke with members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe over their environmental concerns about oil spills and construction. In the meantime, protests continue at the North Dakota site, as thousands of activists and tribal members have gathered to protect the tribe's local water supply.
The delay will likely put the decision in Trump's hands.
Clean Energy Act
The EPA added six greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, to its list of hazardous pollutants in 2009, allowing the agency to regulate carbon emissions under Clean Energy Act.
The argument was that greenhouse gases contribute to climate change by causing the atmosphere to store more heat, thus leading to stronger storms, drought and sea level rise that can threaten Americans. The decision was made following a Supreme Court ruling that stated the EPA had the authority to regulate greenhouse gases, so reversing the decision could require another Supreme Court ruling—or could be as simple as gutting the EPA to the point where it can't follow up with on-the-books regulations.
Trump has stated he plans to eliminate the EPA and is eyeing climate skeptic Myron Ebell as a choice for EPA director.
Energy Independence and Security Act
The 2007 energy bill, signed by President George W. Bush, was passed to move the US toward greater energy independence and increase the transition to "clean renewable fuels" at a time when the US . was in the middle of the Iraq War.
The bill requires the US to increase its volume of renewable fuel from 4 billion gallons in 2006 to 36 billion gallons by 2022. Ethanol was among the available options, and gas companies began supplementing their gasoline with the corn-based fuel.
If Trump is looking to increase demand for fossil fuel, reducing requirements to increase dependence on biofuels such as ethanol could be one path.
Clean Power Plan/Cap and Trade
The EPA's Clean Power Plan established a federal cap and trade program in 2015.
The "cap" sets a maximum limit on the amount of emissions each state can produce, and that limit is lowered over time to push states to opt for cleaner solutions. The trade portion comes in when states have surplus clean energy from solar panels, wind turbines and other methods. They can then sell excess clean energy to other states, negating that state's need to produce more clean energy on its own. .
The Clean Power Plan is expected to affect some regions more than others. States with more emissions will get higher penalties, and Texas and Ohio are among the largest polluters in the country.
With a few exceptions, all states are expected to reduce their emissions per hour of energy produced by 2030, according to Climate Central.
However, the Supreme Court delayed implementation of the plan in February, pending judicial review, so since Trump will likely be choosing at least one Supreme Court justice, his presidency could have an impact on whether this plan goes forward. It's also conceivable that his instructions to the EPA could affect the enforcement (or lack thereof) of this plan.
The Obama Administration has blocked attempts to reopen offshore drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf in the Atlantic Ocean for years, citing environmental and human health concerns from drilling and oil spills. Even after Obama considered opening the Atlantic to offshore drilling, that idea was nixed last year under pressure from East Coast residents.
This week, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management released the list of sites where new offshore oil drilling operations are allowed to open for the next five years. Among the lease sale agreement are 10 sites in the Gulf of Mexico and one near Alaska—effectively banning offshore drilling in the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific until after 2022.
But even though it seems like that's a done deal, the president does have certain powers, and there may be a way for Trump to get around the ban and to order that department to review its findings and issue more leases. But it's too soon to tell.
Hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, is the golden egg of the oil and gas production business right now. The process of breaking up shale and extracting oil and gas from large wells in Oklahoma, Kansas and other Midwest states—as well as a few other locations, such as California—has helped fuel the fossil fuel industry for the past few years.
Fracking site owners are required to follow regulations regarding where they place their wastewater disposal wells (to protect local drinking water), the permits fracking sites require if they use diesel fuel, water quality standards that the wastewater must meet before it can be discharged, and air quality regulations from the natural gas that is released during pumping—among many other rules.
At the same time, fracking is thought to be linked to major earthquakes striking Oklahoma regularly, but not necessarily through the extraction process itself. The secondary process of disposing the fracking wastewater by drilling into rocks and injecting the water there was said to be the cause of at least one massive earthquake in the Midwest earlier this year, according to the US Geological Survey.
Since many of these regulations are enforced by the EPA, it's unknown what dismantling the department could do to these protections.
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