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Factbox: In speech to Congress, Trump targets energy regulations



The Trump administration: A Platts news and analysis feature

By Maya Weber and Brian Scheid

Published online 28 February 2017



In a speech to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night, President Donald Trump offered broad insight into his policy goals and reaffirmed his administration's push to rollback federal regulations.


"We have undertaken a historic effort to massively reduce job crushing regulations," Trump said.


While the speech offered few specifics, Trump has identified rolling back regulations developed during the Obama administration as a key avenue to increasing domestic oil, natural gas and coal output.


Here's a look at this rollback effort and areas of regulation the Trump White House has targeted or may target:


Analysis continues below...


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WATERS OF THE US


Earlier Tuesday, Trump signed an executive order telling agencies to review and potentially rescind the so-called Waters of the United States rule, defining which bodies of water come under the regulatory purview of the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers.


Oil and gas companies, pipeline developers and electric utilities were among a broad swath of business groups who fought the rule as an unneeded expansion of federal authority. Pipeline companies for instance worried it could affect pipeline operations such as construction, replacement or maintenance in or near areas newly defined as waters of the US.



EXECUTIVE ORDERS


Since coming into office, Trump has also issued broader executive orders meant to rein in regulations on a government-wide basis. One order, issued February 24, requires all federal agencies to set up "regulatory reform" task forces to "evaluate existing regulations and identify candidates for repeal and modification."


A related order, already facing legal challenge from public interest groups, requires federal agencies to eliminate two existing regulations for each new regulation finalized. That measure would also set a cap on the cost of new rules -- the total incremental cost of all new rules, including repealed regulations finalized this year could be no greater than zero.


On his first day in office, the president also imposed a regulatory freeze on new and pending regulations to allow a Trump-appointed official a chance to review those in the pipeline when Obama left office.



CONGRESSIONAL REVIEW ACT


The House of Representative on February 3 voted to repeal a Department of the Interior rule aimed at limiting methane emissions from oil and gas operations, part of an effort by congressional Republicans to overturn Obama administration regulations through a previously obscure law known as the Congressional Review Act.


The CRA, a 20-year-old law that had been used only once successfully before this Congress, allows lawmakers to review and cancel by majority vote federal regulations brought in within the last 60 days of a previous congressional session.


Under the CRA, Trump has also signed into law the repeal of an Obama coal mining regulation known as the Stream Protection Rule, and a Securities & Exchange Commission requirement for US-traded oil, gas and mining companies to report payments to foreign governments.


The House has also approved repeal of a federal rule aimed at modernizing Interior's resource management plans, an Obama-era change opposed by the US oil and gas sector, and the Senate could vote on the House-approved measure to repeal Interior's methane limits as soon as this week.



OFFSHORE DRILLING


It remains unclear when, but the Trump administration is expected to attempt to reverse 2016 moves by the Obama administration that canceled lease sales for waters off Atlantic and Arctic coastlines and permanently barred drilling in the majority of US Arctic waters and off a large chunk of the Eastern Seaboard.


Interior under Trump may work to redo the 2017-2022 federal offshore leasing plan to include potential sales in Arctic and Atlantic waters and in additional areas of the Gulf of Mexico.


But the process to redo the sales is expected to take years to carry out and is complicated by Obama's actions in December to block Arctic and Atlantic drilling through authority under Section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, a 63-year-old law which allows the president to "withdraw from disposition" any unleased lands in federal waters.


No president has reversed a permanent withdrawal by a previous president and environmental groups have already promised a court battle if Trump attempts to be the first.



THE CLEAN POWER PLAN


Possibly as soon as this week, Trump is expected to direct EPA to seek to reverse the Clean Power Plan, the most significant Obama rule under his effort to combat climate change.


The CPP is already far along in an appeals court process, and an effort to turn it back is expected to involve a lengthy regulatory process and is likely to draw legal challenges.


The EPA is currently headed by Scott Pruitt, who sued to overturn the CPP as Oklahoma's attorney general. Finalized by the Obama administration in August 2015, the CPP sets nationwide limits on carbon dioxide pollution from power plants.



FINANCIAL REGULATION


Regulation of the financial sector stemming from the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is seen as a major target of the deregulation push.


House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, Republican-Texas, on February 23 warned Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen against adopting any new rules until the Senate confirms a vice chairman for supervision.


Potentially on the chopping block is one major proposed rule that could affect energy commodity trading: the Federal Reserve's proposal for risk-based capital and other requirements for financial holding companies related to physical commodities.


In recent comments, a variety of energy sector interests argued the requirements could chase out competition and liquidity in markets where financial holding companies facilitate and add diversity to physical commodity and related financial markets. Public interest groups by contrast applauded what they cast as the Federal Reserve's recognition of the potential dangers to banks and the broader economy.


Another likely target is the so-called Volcker rule, first proposed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, limiting banks from engaging in speculative investments.


Less sweeping change is possible at the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, where acting Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo is expected to steer actions impacting derivatives, including a proposed regulation on speculative position limits, in a direction more to the liking of observers with political bent that leans to the right.







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