Trump Vows to Scale Back Federal Regulations to 1960 Levels

President Trump said Thursday that he plans to scale back the scope of federal regulations to the level it stood in 1960, saying that the "never-ending" red tape of regulation in America needs to be cut.

Since Trump took office, his administration has cut 67 regulations and proposed just three new rules. The cuts have eliminated $570 million a year in regulatory costs.

The administration also canceled or delayed more than 1,500 planned regulatory actions in Trump's first 11 months, including the highly anticipated proposed Mega Gas Rule, or formerly called the Safety of Gas Transmission and Gathering Pipelines.

 The Mega Gas Rule was first scheduled to be published to the Federal Register in December but was halted when Trump took office. PHMSA states that the goal of this proposed rule is to “increase the level of safety associated with the transportation of gas by proposing requirements to address the causes of recent incidents with significant consequences” and to “clarify and enhance some existing requirements.”

Amit Narang, a regulatory policy advocate at Public Citizen's Congress Watch division, said Trump's deregulation agenda may help the corporate world but will make the public pay.

Houston Chronicle

Anadarko Petroleum Says 99% of its Gas Lines Passed Tests after Fatal Colorado Blast

Anadarko Petroleum, which owns a natural gas pipeline linked to a fatal home explosion in Colorado, said more than 99 percent of its pipelines tested after the incident showed no signs of leaks.

The pipelines that did fail the tests are being repaired and retested, the company said Friday. Anadarko tested more than 4,000 of its active flow lines and reported that 99.6 of them passed.

Colorado regulators required energy companies to test all pipelines within 1,000 feet of occupied buildings after a natural gas pipeline exploded in Firestone, Colorado in April, killing two people.

Friday was the deadline for the pipeline tests, after which about 9,700 test results were made public. The vast majority indicated that the pipelines passed.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission also required energy companies to identify and report the locations of all pipelines near building and to make sure any inactive pipelines were disconnected, sealed, and buried.

Houston Chronicle

Saskatchewan Government Must Implement More Safety Regulations for Pipelines, Says Auditor

An auditor for Canadian province Saskatchewan said last week that the province's government still needs to improve its pipeline regulations after a Husky Energy pipeline spilled 225,000 liters of crude oil into and near the North Saskatchewan River last year.

In her latest report released last Tuesday, auditor Judy Ferguson wrote that the Saskatchewan government has only implemented two of the remaining five recommendations from a 2012 report.

Saskatchewan New Democratic Party member Cathy Sproule said in a written statement that the government has not moved quickly enough on the auditor's recommendations and has failed to implement key safety practices that would help prevent spills from occurring.

In her report, Ferguson noted that the government does not currently have written policies and procedures to evaluate the province's existing pipelines.

Although there is still work to do, the province has made substantial progress in implementing the recommendations made in the 2012 report and is continuing to work toward developing a risk-based system to regulate pipelines, according to Doug MacKnight, the assistant deputy minister in the petroleum and natural gas division of the Ministry of the Economy.

CBC News

California Adopts Stricter Rules on Natural Gas Leaks as Way to Fight Global Warming

The California Public Utilities Commission voted Thursday to approve rules designed to cut natural gas leaks from pipelines and pumping stations by 40 percent, which will require more frequent inspections and quicker timelines to fix minor to major leaks.

The adoption comes as California continues to fight against global warming despite President Trump's decision to remove the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement. After Trump's announcement earlier this month to remove the country from the accord, several state leaders vowed to continue to fight global warming through their own regulations.

The new regulations in California could save $8 million worth of gas each year, according to Tim O'Connor, the director of California oil and gas policy for the Environmental Defense Fund.

The regulations will require utilities companies to file annual reports on methane emissions and follow a list of 26 "best practices" made to prevent, find, and fix leaks. They also must inspect their gas distribution networks for leaks at least once every three years.

Houston Chronicle


Firestone Explosion Spurs Demand for Tighter Regulatory Control of Pipelines at Local Level

Advocates in Colorado are seeking tighter local governmental control over oil and gas pipeline regulation after a Firestone house explosion that killed two people and critically injured one.

The explosion occurred April 17 in Firestone, Colorado and was caused by odorless gas that seeped from a cut-off underground pipeline into the house. The one-inch pipeline ran from an Anadarko Petroleum well near the house and migrated gas into the French drains of the home.

Josh Joswick, an organizer with Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project, told communities in Lafayette, Colorado at a meeting Monday that local governments can pick up where state and federal legislation is lacking.

"There is substantial room for local governments to get involved with pipeline regulation. If the state isn't explicitly trying to address something, then local governments can pick up the slack," Joswick said.

Joswick argues that local governments should start by requiring operators to disclose more stringent information on existing pipelines, noting that lack of information is a current problem at the local level.

Advocates at the meeting argued that they don't know where existing lines are and that there is no oversight over where new lines will go.

Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, said he believes local governments have a fair amount of control already but need to exercise it.

Daily Camera - Lafayette News
The Denver Post

Senate Bills Require Stricter Great Lakes Oil Pipeline Standards

New laws proposed in the U.S. Senate would mean more liability standards for oil pipelines that cross the Great Lakes, like Enbridge's controversial Line 5 oil pipeline that moves oil 1,098 miles from western Canada to eastern Canada.

The legislation was introduced Wednesday by Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. Peters and Stabenow say the bills are intended to boost safety of pipelines that are in or near the Great Lakes.

Onshore pipelines do not have stringent of liability standards as offshore pipelines, and because pipelines that cross portions of the lakes are considered "onshore," the bills would change that and require operators to cover all oil spill cleanup costs should they occur.

The bills would also strengthen federal authority to shut pipelines due to dangerous conditions, require more review of spill response plans, and increase public access to information on the pipelines.


State Regulators Release Collective Report on Regulatory Considerations for Underground Gas Storage

A group comprised of various state oil and gas regulators released a 130-page resource document discussing regulatory considerations for underground natural gas storage, such as risk management, state permitting, well drilling and construction, well integrity, reservoir integrity, emergency response planning, and more.

The group was formed in May 2016 by States First, a collaboration of the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission and the Ground Water Protection Council. The groups aimed to collect information from participating U.S. states to help improve underground natural gas storage and other regulatory programs.

According to an Oil & Gas Journal report, the document that was released May 8 includes input from experts in academia, industry, nonprofit organizations, and other agencies.

The report is called "Underground Gas Storage Regulatory Considerations" and serves as a guide for both state and federal agencies after the 2015 Aliso Canyon leak in California that was widely reported to be the worst single natural gas leak in U.S. history in terms of its environmental impact.

Oil & Gas Journal

Congress Hears Arguments on Expediting FERC Pipeline Review Process

As the regulatory process led by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to approve pipeline projects continues to face longer delays, Congress is considering a proposal to help speed up the process.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce on Wednesday heard testimonies about its consideration to amend the Natural Gas Act, which would grant FERC greater authority in coordinating the extensive and complex pipeline review process.

In his testimony, executive director of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America Don Santa told the committee on Wednesday that "federal permitting agencies are taking longer, and in some cases, are electing not to initiate reviews until FERC has completed its review of a proposed pipeline project. These disjointed, sequential reviews cause delay, and in some cases, create the need for supplemental environment analysis."

Santa also suggested to the committee that the Clean Water Act be amended to help ease the process of constructing major interstate infrastructure projects.

On the other side of the argument, Jennifer Danis, a staff attorney for the Eastern Environmental Law Center, said that any changes would "inappropriately expand FERC's Natural Gas Act authority and undermine states' rights, and undermine the important role that other federal and state agencies play in protecting natural resources for the public."

State Impact Pennsylvania

Canada Government to Delay Methane Curbing Regulations by Up to Three Years

The Canadian government is seeking to delay the implementation of new methane regulations by up to three years, according to a revised federal timeline on the matter.

The initial plan put forth under Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former U.S. President Barack Obama aimed to fully implement tough rules to control methane emissions from the oil and gas industry by 2020. The revised timeline has now pushed that back to 2023.

The delay comes after discussions between the Canadian government and stakeholders, and the new timeline will be incorporated into the proposed methane regulations that should be announced by the end of this month.

According to the documents on the matter, the Canadian federal government is adjusting its timeline to allow provinces to establish their own rules on controlling methane as well as to give the oil and gas industry time to spread out the costs of retrofitting facilities.

"Our goal is to take serious action on climate change to reduce emissions. But we need to be doing it in a smart way where we make sure that we are understanding the perspective of industry and understanding the science," said Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.

The delay on methane regulations also comes during a time where many major oil producers are cutting their exposure to Canada's oil sands operations, which are very expensive to develop. Along with high operation costs are carbon taxes that deter global players from the area.

CBC News

Alaska Officials to Review Pipeline Regulations After Two Recent Spills in Alaska Waters

Alaska officials plan to review aging pipeline infrastructure in the state's Cook Inlet to learn how to better control operations after two recent oil and gas spills.

An eight-inch oil pipeline owned by Hilcorp Alaska that supplies two production platforms in the inlet leaked an unknown amount of oil into the water Saturday. The company removed all oil from the line by Sunday.

Although the amount is not yet known, the company says fewer than three gallons spilled into the inlet.

The discovered oil leak is the second spill in the inlet for Hilcorp Alaska. Another eight-inch pipeline continues to spew natural gas into the inlet since it began leaking in mid-December. Since the discovery, Hilcorp has reduced flow to the line several times to cut back the amount of natural gas spilling into the water.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation plans to conduct a review on pipeline location, ownership, age, and inspection frequency in the inlet over the next year and may make regulatory changes based on its findings.

The inlet is home to an endangered population of beluga whale and other wildlife. Two environmental groups have given their 60-day's notice of intent to sue Hilcorp Alaska for violating several laws that protect the water and potentially affected wildlife.

Houston Chronicle

Texas Attorney General Challenges PHMSA Regulation on Underground Gas Storage Facilities

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is challenging a final rule imposed by PHMSA in December that requires stricter safety standards of underground natural gas storage facilities.

On December 14, PHMSA announced its Interim Final Rule that requires "minimum federal safety standards for underground natural gas storage facilities" as a response to the Aliso Canyon natural gas leak incident in 2015. The incident resulted in an estimated release of 4.62 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

Paxton believes the rule is "government overreach," and that it strips states' authority of their own natural gas facilities and disregards traditional state regulatory roles.

"My office does not tolerate government over reach and will not allow a rule as arbitrary and capricious as this to stand," Paxton said in a statement.

Texas' state regulator, Railroad Commission, currently oversees more than 30 active underground storage facilities.

Texas Attorney General
Fuel Fix

Regulatory Shift: EPA Drops Request for Methane Emissions Data from Oil, Gas Industry

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Thursday that it will no longer require the oil and gas industry to provide data on methane emitted from its operations, leading to several reactions from industry leaders and environmentalists.

In the last days of Barack Obama's presidency, his administration required that some 15,000 companies in the oil and gas industry provide data that showed the amount of methane its operations emitted as an effort to evaluate pollution levels and reduce or control them.

In its statement, the EPA informed those companies to discontinue the matter, which led to cheerful reactions from the industry as companies will be able to save money on equipment required to detect methane emissions. Some attorneys general from oil-heavy states responded to the news with applaud, saying they felt their states had been burdened with extensive climate rules.

Environmentalists had a different reaction to the EPA's decision, saying that vital pollution data will now be held from the American public, and the deregulation will no longer encourage pollution control.


Trump Official Says U.S. to Switch Course on Climate Change, Regulations

Donald Trump speaking to supporters at an immigration policy speech at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0

Donald Trump speaking to supporters at an immigration policy speech at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0

An official under President Donald Trump told the press Monday that the U.S. will change course on climate change by pulling out of the Paris Agreement aimed to curb global warming and by significantly cutting regulations that tie down the energy industry.

"I have no idea of the timing," Myron Ebell said at a conference in London Monday regarding Trump's action on climate change since government departments are still in transition.

Myron Ebell, Director of Global Warming and International Environmental Policy, headed Trump's Environmental Protection Agency transition team until Trump's inauguration.

Trump, a climate change skeptic, pledged during his campaign to boost the oil and gas industry, as well as the coal industry, by cutting regulation. He also promised to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement.

Trump took a significant step toward his campaign pledges by signing an executive order on Monday that requires agencies to cut two existing regulations for every new regulation introduced.

"This will be the largest ever cut by far in terms of regulation," said President Trump during his signing in the Oval Office on Monday.

Fuel Fix

PHMSA Completes Long Awaited Rulemaking that Increases Pipeline Safety Standards

PHMSA on Friday announced the signing of a long awaited rulemaking that implements critical safety improvements for onshore hazardous liquid pipelines, a rulemaking that the agency called one of its "top priorities" for rulemakings in 2016.

The use of hazardous liquid pipelines in the U.S. continues to increase, causing communities to demand "regulatory certainty" relating to pipeline safety. U.S. Secretary Anthony Foxx said "this rule gives operators clear direction on the design, construction, and operation" of these pipelines and holds operators "accountable for the safety of the communities they serve."

According to PHMSA's statement, the new rule better standardizes how operators repair aging pipelines and high-risk infrastructure. The rule also improves the quality and frequency of the assessments of pipeline conditions.

PHMSA is also pushing operators to invest in increased data capabilities and to continue improving processes that mitigate risk, said PHMSA Administrator Marie Dominguez.

Operators will have to conduct integrity assessments on pipelines outside HCAs (high-consequence areas) at least once every 10 years and also extend reporting requirements to gathering lines, which are not currently regulated by PHMSA.

The rule adds that pipeline operators must have a system for detecting leaks and an established timeline for inspecting affected pipelines after extreme weather conditions or natural disasters, allowing operators to quickly identify potential damage and prevent incidents.

The final rulemaking is awaiting publication in the Federal Register. Once it is published, the rule will take six months to go into effect.

Yahoo News
State Impact Pennsylvania

Judge Cuts Proposed Fine Against PG&E for California Pipeline Blast

A judge has tremendously cut a $562 million fine against Pacific Gas & Electric Company in a criminal case alleging the company violated federal pipeline safety regulations prior to a disastrous natural gas explosion in California and then obstructed investigators.

With no explanation given, the U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson issued the order on Tuesday. The prosecutors also offered no explanation as to why they decided to seek a much lower fine against the utility after more than a month of testimony and several days into jury deliberations.

Jurors are still deciding whether PG&E is guilty of multiple charges filed following the explosion in 2010 that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes in San Bruno.

If found guilty, the utility faces a $6-million fine as opposed to $562 million for 11 counts of pipeline safety violations and obstructing investigators after the explosion.

Robert Weisberg, criminal law professor at Stanford University, suggested that prosecutors may be concerned that the jurors would think the original fine was too much money and too much of the jurors’ time to sit through a possible penalty phase, thus would side with the gas utility out of anger toward the prosecutors.

Brandon Garrett, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law stated that the original fine against PG&E was meant to act as a deterrent and that the revised proposed fine was a “massive and unexplained discount” given by the prosecutors.

"Obviously, if a company does not have to pay a fine that is larger than its gains, then its crime becomes profitable," Garrett said.

ABC News

PHMSA Seeks Public Comments on Carbon Dioxide Pipeline Regulation

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is seeking comments on its report called “Background for Regulating the Transportation of Carbon Dioxide in a Gaseous State,” which the public can find in the docket at PHMSA-2016-0049.

As stated in section 15 of the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011, PHMSA is required to set minimum pipeline safety standards for the transportation of carbon dioxide in a gaseous state.

Because PHMSA does not currently regulate pipelines that carry carbon dioxide, it has limited ability to reach out and locate operators of gaseous carbon dioxide pipelines and is uncertain if its current information is comprehensive.

PHMSA encourages comments on its report in order to better understand the possible effects of the regulatory scenarios presented within the report, as well as where carbon dioxide pipelines are located. The public will be able to comment for 30 days, the period ending July 27.

Visit the Federal Register to learn more about how to submit comments.

Federal Register

Pipeline Safety Bill Sent to White House

By Kevin McCoy, CC BY-SA 2.0,

The US Senate unanimously approved the amended federal pipeline safety bill PIPES Act of 2016 on Monday and sent it to the President’s desk for signature. The Senate made its vote just four days after the bill was approved in the House.

The Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act reauthorizes the federal pipeline safety program within PHMSA through fiscal 2019. Moreover, it ensures that PHMSA will carry out the rest of its safety directives given in the expired pipeline safety program of 2011.

According to the PIPES Act 2016 summary given by the Energy & Commerce and Transport & Infrastructure Committees, the bill “reforms PHMSA to be a more dynamic, data-driven regulator and provides regulatory certainty for citizens, the safety community, and the industry.”

President of American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers Chet Thompson warned that Congress should continue to “conduct vigilant oversight to ensure PHMSA’s new authorities are not abused” now that they will be given a wide-range emergency authority.

“In giving PHMSA wide-ranging emergency order authority that, if used improperly, has the potential for severe disruptions for businesses and consumers, Congress must now carefully monitor its actions to avoid agency overreach, which could inhibit the energy industry’s ability to provide affordable and abundant fuel in a safe and reliable manner,” he added.

Pipelines are one of the safest modes of transportation for energy commodities, resulting in successful transportation 99.999% of the time. They are the critical link to connect oil and gas resources to consumers around the world.

PIPES Act 2016 Summary

Railroad Commission of Texas to Host 2016 Pipeline Safety Conference in San Antonio, Texas

The Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) is hosting its 2016 Pipeline Safety Conference on August 24-26 in San Antonio, Texas.

The purpose of this conference is to educate the pipeline industry on both federal and state regulations. During the conference, attendees will have the opportunity to meet with RRC Pipeline Safety staff and inspectors, learn about safety changes at the RRC and how they will affect the industry, hear the new regulations that are coming from the federal and state levels, learn about services and products that will contribute to more efficient systems, and exchange ideas and best practices with peers in the industry.

Accommodations have been reserved at the Embassy Suites River Walk. For more information on rates and reservations, visit the Texas Gas Association website. The registration form and information on fees will also be available on their website.

For more information about the conference, visit Railroad Commission of Texas.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company Tests Drones as Potential Safety Inspectors of Gas and Electric Infrastructure

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is testing the utility of drones to increase safety of its electric and gas infrastructures after receiving authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to use the unmanned aircraft systems to help with the infrastructure inspections.

The drones, which are controlled by operators using remote commands, will be tested at the hydroelectric facility Balch Powerhouse, located outside of Fresno, California. Tests at the Balch Powerhouse will include using the drones to assess equipment that is located in steep terrain and other areas whose geological environments pose danger to inspectors and require an extensive amount of training and safety equipment.

Vice President of Electric Transmission and Distribution at PG&E reported that the drone tests are proving to be successful as the drones are able to fly over hard-to-reach and inaccessible terrain and bring back images of the conditions of electric and gas infrastructure located in the terrain. The benefits of using drones for inspection include the enhancement of safety and reliability and accurate detection of leaks and structural issues in remote areas and over long distances.

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Constitution Pipeline Company Appeals New York Rejection of Water Permit

New York-based Constitution Pipeline Company last Monday appealed the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s rejection of a water permit, the last obstacle to finalizing the 124-mile natural gas pipeline that would stretch from Pennsylvania to New York and New England.

Halting this pipeline project puts the future of the $875 million project at stake and could also be indicative to other projects that are in line for the New York area.

The gas market is keeping close watch on the future of Constitution’s pipeline project as analysts report delays to the project could possibly cut U.S. output more than what is expected.

New York grassroots group Stop The Pipeline opposes the project, saying the pipeline would cross through a sensitive watershed area. Supporters of Constitution Pipeline argue that natural gas is integral to the area, will supply millions of homes, and will create over 2,000 jobs.

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