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.
In October 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) launched the Smart Sectors Program, a program that creates a collaborative partnership between the EPA and regulated sectors such as the automotive, agriculture, and mining industries. The program provides a platform for the EPA and regulated sectors to collectively develop approaches to protect the environment, public health, and the economy.
Power plants generate a residue after burning coal called coal ash, more formally known as coal combustion residuals (CCRs). In October 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established national guidelines to address the environmental dangers and health risks of coal ash. In May, nearly two years after the rule regulating the disposal of CCRs from electric utilities came into effect, industry officials petitioned the EPA to reconsider the rule, claiming adverse effects.
Environmental regulation has been heavily targeted by President Trump since the first days of his presidency, and even throughout his campaign. He announced early on that he wanted to cut general business regulations by at least 75%. His justification was that he wanted to remove red tape and delays and promote industry growth and economic development. The two industries potentially most affected by changes to environmental regulations are the oil industry and the coal mining industry.
One of this administration’s first big moves towards environmental deregulation was withdrawing from the Paris Accord. Against the advice of many leaders in the tech and fossil fuel industry, Trump chose to withdraw, stating that the terms of the accord were not as favorable to the United States. Experts say the support of the Paris Accord stems from a general trend towards reducing emission and creating more sustainable sources as a better investment than coal and oil, and a more “global framework”. Although some experts and leaders in the fossil fuel industry have been denouncing the changes, others are consulting with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Interior Department on policy changes and leading the teams created to evaluate and remove regulations.