Oct. 24–PITTSBURGH — The acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency gave oil and gas industry representatives an overview of how the Trump administration is working to make their job easier.
EPA’s Andrew Wheeler gave the opening keynote address for the 2018 Shale Insight Conference put on by the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.
His mission, he said, is removing regulatory barriers and leveling the playing field for American companies. President Trump gave him a three-prong focus: clean up the air, continue cleaning up the water and provide regulatory relief to help create jobs and keep the economy rolling.
Underpinning their actions, he said, is the belief that “federal regulations are not necessary to drive greenhouse gas reductions.”
In the past 18 months, he said, the EPA has completed 28 deregulatory actions, providing savings of more than $1.6 billion. It’s developing another 49 actions that could save up to another $100 billion.
Wheeler cited some long-term — many pre-Trump — statistics to make his case. From 1970 to 2017, air pollutants fell by 73 percent while the economy grew by 260 percent. From 2005 to 2017, U.S. energy-related emissions fell by 14 percent while emissions around the globe rose by 20 percent.
Since 1990, natural gas production more than doubled while natural gas production-related methane emissions fell by 16 percent. During Trump’s tenure so far, from 2016 to 2017, CO2 emissions fell by 2.7 percent, he said.
“These achievements flow from private sector innovation with cooperation between Washington and the states,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler described three areas where the EPA aims to provide greater regulatory certainty: to states and tribal and local governments, within the EPA’s own programs, and in the way EPA communicates risk to the public.
“Those closest to the issue are often best suited to address it, not bureaucrats in Washington,” he said.
Wheeler said an EPA oil and gas roundtable with the industry led to an oil and gas action plan to enhance communications with producers, deal with treated produced water and develop a New Owner Clean Air Act Audit Program tailored for the oil and natural gas sector.
The audit program will make it easier for the regulated community to self-disclose and correct violations, he said. EPA wants to encourage self-auditing without fear of the EPA using the information against them.
EPA is also developing a compliance assistance center for small and midsize operators that can’t afford in-house environmental experts.
“Our goal is to free you to do what you do best, which is to innovate, create and produce.”
Looking to future actions, Wheeler said, EPA is considering whether to separately regulate methane since it’s already covered in the existing standard. It’s also considering whether to regulate the industry as one sector, given the differences between production and processing on one hand and storage and distribution on the other.
Also, he said, EPA is close to proposing a new Waters of the U.S. definition. The 2015, Obama administration proposal wasn’t about water quality but federal power, he said.
“Our proposed new definition will end years of uncertainty over where federal and state jurisdiction begins and ends.”
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