The Journal Gazette
Friday, January 22, 2021 1:00 am

Effort begins to tighten energy rules

Associated Press

NEW YORK – President Joe Biden has put his team to work reviewing dozens of actions taken by former President Donald Trump, aiming to reverse orders that he says harm the environment or endanger public health. For the energy and auto industries, the effect could be far-reaching.

Biden aims to reduce harmful emissions from cars, trucks and SUVs. Oil and gas operations are being scrutinized as well. The new president aims to transition the country to 100% renewable energy for electricity generation by 2035 and net-zero emissions in the overall economy by 2050.

Hours after his inauguration Wednesday, Biden directed federal agencies to immediately review regulations and executive actions taken in the last four years that threatened public health or the environment. Here is look at some energy issues he plans to tackle:

METHANE LEAKS: Methane, the main component of natural gas, frequently leaks from oil and gas wells and pipelines. As it does, it exerts a powerful warming effect on the atmosphere.

Under President Barack Obama, oil and gas operations were required to inspect equipment built or modified after 2015 twice a year for methane leaks and fix leaks that they found. Trump weakened those rules. Biden is expected to restore Obama-era methane regulations. He may also extend those requirements to those older wells, which could put some operators out of business.

FUEL ECONOMY: The new administration intends to undo Trump's gutting of Obama-era fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards for automobiles through 2025. But the regulatory slog could take a couple of years unless the rollbacks are thrown out by the courts.

The industry has said it supports increased standards but that because people are buying less-efficient SUVs and trucks, it would have trouble reaching the Obama numbers. The industry knows change is coming and is hoping for a settlement.

FEDERAL DRILLING BANS: Biden directed the Interior Department to halt all leasing for oil and natural gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But his ambitions are broader. With sights set on all federal lands, Biden ordered reviews of Trump-era rules that were designed to accelerate the process of allowing drilling on federal land.

PIPELINES: Among his first executive orders, Biden revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, the 1,700-mile pipeline that was to carry oil from Alberta, Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast. Keystone XL began shutting down construction, and the company said it would eliminate more than 1,000 jobs in coming weeks.

PREVENTING BLOWOUTS: The president directed the Interior Department to review rules that are designed to prevent blowouts on offshore oil rigs. The Obama administration had adopted safety measures after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster that killed 11 and spilled 134 million gallons of oil into the Gulf in 2010.

After that tragedy, Obama required companies to test blowout preventers, which are designed to seal a well in case of a blowout, every 14 days. Trump relaxed that standard to every 21 days.

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