Energy Rules Loom at Interior, DOE, NRC, EPA

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By Alan Kovski, Renee Schoof, Rebecca Kern

May 19 — The Interior Department has an array of regulations pending for oil and gas drilling and production in federal onshore and offshore areas, according to the spring regulatory agenda by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

The Energy Department has many regulatory initiatives in the works as well, especially for energy efficiency, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is at work on regulations that include changes to the handling of low-level radioactive waste and a rule aimed at limiting damage from major disasters at nuclear reactors, as listed in the May 18 regulatory agenda.

At Interior, the Bureau of Land Management is scheduled to issue a final rule in November to reduce the flaring, venting and leaking of natural gas from onshore fields and the pipelines leading from those fields. The BLM rule on waste prevention (RIN:1004-AE14) especially would reduce the flaring of gas that comes up as a side stream along with crude oil.

In the offshore, two big final rules are pending. A Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) rule on oil and gas production operations safety on the Outer Continental Shelf, earlier scheduled for completion in January, is now set for completion in May (RIN:1014-AA10). A rule tailoring offshore drilling regulations to the Arctic environment, jointly developed by BSEE and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), is scheduled for completion in June (RIN:1082-AA00).

The renewable fuel standard volume quotas for 2017 was to be set in a rule (RIN:2060-AS72) due out in June, according to the spring regulatory agenda. The EPA beat that deadline, putting out the proposed rule May 18 (96 ECR, 5/18/16).

Much More From Interior

The BLM has a long list of other regulations pending, including revisions to what are called onshore oil and gas orders, governing some basic details of operations.

A proposed change to onshore order No. 1 (RIN:1004-AE37), requiring electronic submission of all applications for permits to drill, is targeted for completion in May, the same month when final rules are to come out for onshore order No. 3 on site security (RIN:1004-AE15), onshore order No. 4 on oil measurement (RIN:1004-AE16) and onshore order No. 4 (RIN:1004-AE17).

Also within Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can have a great impact on energy development, notably through decisions on whether to list a species for Endangered Species Act protections.

The FWS is set to try again on the lesser prairie chicken with a proposed listing determination in June (RIN:1018-BB27). The service is to propose a special rule in May for Gunnison sage grouse protection (RIN:1018-BA84).

More basic to the working of the Endangered Species Act is a pending revision to the process for parties to petition for a listing decision. The final rule from FWS is set to come out in June (RIN:1018-BA53).

BOEM is proposing to revise its procedures for wind energy competitive leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf (RIN:1010-AD91).

Stream Protection Rule From OSMRE

The marquee rulemaking for the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, its stream protection rule (RIN:1029-AC63), is now forecast to be finalized in July, rather than August, as was indicated in the previous agenda.

The rule, which seeks to limit both the generation and placement of coal mining waste, has caught the attention of congressional Republicans, who have heavily criticized it and even threatened to recommend defunding OSMRE over it (56 ECR, 3/23/16).

OSMRE says it plans to prepare a new environmental impact statement for the rule.

Another rulemaking, a cost recovery standard (RIN:1029-AC65), is slated to be finalized in September, according to the regulatory agenda. The rule would update OSMRE's existing permit fees and impose new fees to recover the agency's costs for permit administration and enforcement.

Two other OSMRE rules, on dam safety (RIN:1029-AC68) and toxic gases and blasting (RIN:1029-AC71), have been demoted to the long-term actions list.

Energy Efficiency Rules From DOE

The Energy Department has a busy year ahead, with goals to finalize 13 energy efficiency standards (35 ECR, 2/23/16). The department finalized eight efficiency standards last year, including a rule for large commercial air conditioners and furnaces (RIN:1904-AC95), the largest energy-savings standard in history, saving the equivalent of 75 percent of U.S. household annual energy use (242 ECR, 12/17/15).

“DOE is certainly on track to finalize a number of rules that will achieve really large energy savings and savings for purchasers,” Joanna Mauer, a technical advocacy manager at the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, an energy efficiency standards advocacy group, told Bloomberg BNA May 20.

The agency expects to issue its long-awaited and contentious energy standards for residential non-weatherized gas furnaces (RIN:1904-AD20) by August 2016, past the previously estimated deadline of April 2016.

An informal stakeholder working group made up of industry trade associations, manufacturers, contractors, distributors and energy efficiency groups was formed to create an alternative standard that they plan to provide for the Energy Department, however they haven't come to a consensus yet on a standard (06 ECR, 1/11/16).

Also, a direct final rule on energy standards for central air conditioners and heat pumps (RIN:1904-AD37) is scheduled for August, pushed back from its originally estimated May publication, according to the regulatory agenda.

NRC Rules for Major Events, Low-Level Waste

A rule (RIN:3150-AJ49) proposed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in November to limit damage at reactors in cases of severe events such as earthquakes is expected to be final in April 2017, according to the regulatory agenda. It would establish requirements for nuclear reactor licensees and applicants to plan for ways to reduce the damage of what are known as “beyond-design-basis” events (218 ECR, 11/12/15).

The NRC also proposed a rule (RIN:3150-AI92) in March that aims to change the low-level radioactive waste disposal facilities requirements, amending the agency's regulations on the disposal facilities to require new site-specific technical analyses and criteria for low-level radioactive waste acceptance (57 ECR, 3/25/15). The final rule is due in November, according to the agenda.

To contact the reporters on this story: Alan Kovski in Washington at, Renee Schoof in Washington at Renee Schoof, Rebecca Kern in Washington at Rebecca Kern

—With assistance from Stephen Lee.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at