See the latest EHS federal and state regulatory updates due to COVID-19

On April 10th, the White House issued an executive order titled "Promoting Energy Infrastructure and Economic Growth," that states it is the policy of the United States to promote private investment in energy infrastructure. The executive order laid out several actions, with aggressive timetables, to be taken by government agencies to stimulate that investment. These include:

  • A requirement for EPA to review regulations and guidance related to Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. Energy infrastructure projects are often subject to permitting associated with Section 401. The agency's analysis is to focus on federal-state cooperation, scope of water quality reviews, review times, and conditions for certification. EPA is required to replace a particular guidance document, "Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification: A Water Quality Protection Tool for States and Tribes" (Section 401 Interim Guidance) by April 9, 2019.
  • EPA is also required to propose rules to revise regulations implementing Section 401 by August 8, 2019 and to finalize those rules by May 10, 2020.
  • EPA shall lead an interagency review of other Section 401-related federal guidance and regulations, to be followed with guidance revisions by September 2019 and rulemaking changes in 2020.
  • A requirement for the Secretary of Transportation to update 49 CFR Part 193 to address large scale import and export liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities using risk-based standards, and to finalize those regulatory updates by May 10, 2020. The Secretary is also required to propose a rule that would allow LNG to be transported in rail cars by July 19, 2019.
  • The Secretary of Labor is required to review retirement plans for trends in energy sector investments. The Secretary is also required to review guidance related to proxy voting to determine if changes should be made to "ensure consistency with current law and policies that promote long-term growth and maximize return." These reviews must be completed by October 7, 2019.
  • The Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce are directed to develop a master agreement for energy infrastructure rights-of-way renewals or reauthorizations. They are also required to initiate renewal or reauthorization processes for all expired energy rights-of-way grants, leases, permits, and agreements by April 10, 2020.
  • The Secretaries of Transportation and Energy are required to prepare a report on the "effects caused by the inability to transport sufficient quantities of natural gas and other domestic energy resources to the States in New England and… to States in other regions," including an assessment of how state, local, and tribal actions contributed to those effects. Additionally, they are required to report on the effects of limiting the export of domestic energy resources through the West Coast, as well as opportunities to promote and diversify the economy of the Appalachian region (including a specific reference to the petrochemical industry). These reports are due by October 7, 2019.
  • A broad directive to "heads of agencies" to review authority related to transportation and development of domestic energy resources and report "how those authorities can be most efficiently and effectively used to advance the policies set forth in this order." This report is due by May 10, 2019.

The order has been endorsed by the National Energy Marketers Association and is supported by Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon, who focused particularly on the effect the order may have on opening coal ports on the West Coast for Asian markets. The order can be viewed on the Federal Register website.