The use of fracking has made the United States the global leader in natural gas and crude oil production. However, the practice is not without controversy. Activist groups have called for a ban against fracking as scientists have warned of potential health and environmental impacts, while energy lobbyists have fought bitterly against any restrictions or regulations. As it stands, U.S. regulating of fracking has been mostly left ineffectively to the states, with exemptions to federal regulations on the books. As the societal costs of fracking become better understood, regulators and policy makers must make difficult decisions regarding the practice.
The current franchise agreement between the City of Chicago and Commonwealth Edison (“ComEd”) was signed in 1992 by Mayor Daley and is set to expire at end of 2020. Since 1990, ComEd has generated approximately $60.7 billion in revenue in Chicago alone. In July 2020, Chicago officials announced the results of a feasibility study regarding a potential municipal takeover of ComEd’s electric utility infrastructure. In the same month, ComEd executives admitted to having orchestrated an eight-year bribery scheme where they made payments to Public Official A, later revealed as Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, in return for political favors.
The state of Washington is proposing new water quality regulations in an effort to encourage growth to the salmon population. The campaign against the dams in the Columbia and Snake river basins has been fought for decades and continually struggles to balance the environmental impacts with industry and energy. This regulation is the newest strategy to attempt to strike a balance between the environmental concerns and the industry concerns. Further, as more attention is given to the dwindling population of killer whales, many are calling this an emergency requiring immediate action. This action is a timely response to the recent calls to action.
The Trump administration recently delivered a one-two punch to late Obama administration environmental regulations designed to curb the release of methane gas into the atmosphere while simultaneously encouraging its capture for sale. Two Obama era regulations were modified. The first, from the Department of the Interior, was effectively abrogated, while the other stemming from the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA)” is expected to retain only a fraction of its original force. Environmental groups have already responded to the repeal of the department of interior regulation with a lawsuit in federal court. Methane gas pollution became a greater concern in recent years as the production and use of natural gas as an energy source continues to increase. Proponents of earlier regulations point to methane’s potent contribution to the greenhouse effect, while critics argued the regulations were unnecessary given the natural gas industry’s own efforts and incentives to reduce leaks and capture as much usable gas as possible.
In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations issued a special report on the impact of global warming. The report shared extensive research about our changing atmosphere and issued a grave warning: we must act immediately. The harrowing news came just over one year after President Trump ordered the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement in June 2017. This begs the question: how will changes be made when the world’s most powerful and impactful hegemon refuses to cooperate?
Since the Hanford Site stopped producing plutonium in 1987, contractors continue to clean up leftover radioactive contamination and hazardous solid and liquid waste. Although precautions are being taken to prevent workers from being contaminated by or exposed to the waste, the risk remains and worker’s compensation claims follow. The Department of Energy (DOE) OIG recently published an audit report concluding that the DOE does not have effective policies and procedures concerning the Workers’ Compensation Program at the Hanford Site.
Compliance professionals all over the country are paying close attention to the Trump administration’s deregulatory campaign. While deregulation in finance has received the most media attention, the uranium mining industry has been a quiet beneficiary of the President’s new regulatory scheme.
I authored a post last year regarding the nuclear energy industry’s current initiative to reduce operational costs to compete with the ever-dropping cost of energy production. Coined “Delivering the Nuclear Promise,” the initiative aims to enlist cost-cutting initiatives such as reducing staffing and removing superfluous requirements that maintain large margin to regulatory thresholds. Companies have set hefty goals to bring the cost of nuclear energy production down to values that would make nuclear energy competitive against less expensive, highly backed, and not-as-clean, forms of energy. This all needs to be done without sacrificing safety.
In order to achieve these drastic measures, I will set forth the case for on-the-rise technologies, that while the nuclear energy industry does not currently have the infrastructure to support, will aide in this transition, and as I argue, ultimately be required in order to sustain this clean and necessary form of energy.
Environmental and tribal groups have historically taken important roles in implementing and enforcing regulations to protect the environment. In a recent action, environmental and tribal groups took on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in an attempt to quash BLM’s elimination of a rule regulating the chemicals used in fracking. Although the final rule was originally officially published and implemented in 2015, it never went into full effect due to major challenges brought by the oil and gas industry. However, the Trump administration recently repealed the rule in its entirety, prompting a lawsuit arguing that the BLM is required to promulgate regulations as part of its mission.
Under the Obama Administration, the EPA passed Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium-Duty and Heavy-Duty Vehicles. The regulation aimed to reduce climate change-causing emissions from the transportation sector, particularly the pollution caused by trucks. However, following the voiced concerns of stakeholders in the glider and trailer industry, the Trump Administration has issued a notice of repeal of emission requirements for glider vehicles, glider engines, and glider kits.