House Passes Methane Resolution
Chris Kearney | NSWA Vice President, Governmental Affairs
The U.S. House has, on a bipartisan vote (229-191), passed the companion resolution to the Senate one passed several weeks ago that repeals the Trump Administration’s methane “policy” rule. Ahead of the House floor, in an unusual move, the Energy and Commerce Committee reported the resolution out of committee on a party-line vote of 30-22.
The resolution is now headed to the President’s desk for his signature. Once signed into law, the action will effectively reinstate Obama-era methane standards on the oil and gas industry, though the Biden administration is working to expand methane limits – an announcement on those actions expected in September – on the oil and gas industry.
It is important to note that passage of this resolution will not result in regulation of stripper wells. They remain exempt under a separate Trump Administration rule on methane known as the “technical” rule.
EPA is currently developing a new regulatory framework for methane. NSWA board members recently participated in recent EPA-sponsored public meetings focused on collecting small business stakeholder impacts – the outline of which is expected in September 2021. A final rule is expected to be issued in October 2022. If you want to provide information (i.e. DOE and NASA studies and related info) that you think would be informative for EPA to consider, as they develop the rule, you can provide it here.
Federal Legislation Would Classify Produced Water as Hazardous Waste
In early March, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), and other Democrat leaders, introduced the Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act – ambitious new climate legislation that reflects the House Democrat Caucus’ primary legislation to address climate change. At almost 900 pages, it proposes a slew of measures designed to achieve a net zero greenhouse gas pollution no later than 2050, with an interim target of reducing pollution by 50% from 2005 levels no later than 2030. The bill presents both sector-specific and economy-wide solutions to meet those targets.
Buried in the bill are a number of provisions that would adversely affect the oil and gas industry. Of particular concern is a provision that would apply extremely strict standards to produced water emitting from small operations. Specifically, under the bill, water produced from new oil and gas wells would be reclassified as hazardous waste, which in turn would change the requirements for its disposal and make this disposal much more difficult.
Currently, produced water is disposed of in a fairly common type of injection wells – known as Class II wells, of which there are about 180,000 in the U.S. However, if produced water is reclassified as hazardous waste, it would need to be disposed of in Class I wells. There are only an estimated 300 in the country.
Chris Kearney, NSWA vice president of governmental affairs, has been tracking this legislation closely – including outreach to the committee highlighting NSWA’s concerns – and despite several hearings on various elements of the bill, it is not expected to advance out of committee or come to the House floor in its present form, and there is not a similar bill in the Senate.
However, these very troubling provisions could be separated from the overall bill and added to other climate change related legislation. So, Chris and NSWA will continue to monitor developments closely for any signs of its movement.
NSWA will keep you apprised and alert you should outreach to Members of Congress be needed.
Bipartisan “Group of 20” and President Agree to Infrastructure Proposal
The President and a bipartisan group of twenty congressional lawmakers have reached agreement on a framework for a $579 billion infrastructure legislation that would be paid for through a wide array of creative funding sources, including repurposing unused relief funds from 2020 emergency relief legislation.
The framework “provides a historic investment in our nation’s core infrastructure needs without raising taxes,” said a statement issued by 10 Democratic and 10 Republican Senators. Of the $579 billion in the package, $313 billion would be for transportation infrastructure; $73 billion for energy; $55 billion for water; $47 billion for resiliency; $16 billion to clean up orphaned mines and wells; $5 billion for Superfund cleanup; and $5 billion for Western water storage.
Senate Energy Infrastructure Bill Introduced
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resource (ENR) Committee, has released a draft energy infrastructure bill that also includes tens of billions for energy infrastructure and billions for environmental projects as well as Western water infrastructure projects. The Committee held a hearing on the bill earlier this week. A summary of key elements of interest to SCPPA and public power can be found here.
Of note, there are several provisions related to hydrogen, including one that would establish a DOE research and development program to advance clean hydrogen in the transportation, utility, industrial, commercial, and residential sectors. DOE would be required to establish cost goals and advance clean hydrogen from diverse energy sources, including fossil fuels with carbon capture, hydrogen-carrier fuels, renewable energy sources, and nuclear energy.
As of now, it is expected that Sen. Manchin’s bill, or some portions of it, will be included in the broader budget reconciliation bill, now expected to be taken up in the Fall, not the narrower bipartisan “hard infrastructure” proposal.
However, the politics of the infrastructure debate are quite fluid at the moment and discussions on scope, timing, and nature of the legislative path of the two packages remains in flux and is weeks away from being finalized.
House Begins Markups on FY 2022 Appropriations Bills
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has announced that all or most of the FY 2022 appropriations bills will pass before the House leaves for its summer break on July 30. House appropriations subcommittees will commence marking up their spending bills starting this week with that goal in mind. The Interior-EPA funding bill will be marked up in subcommittee on June 28 with a full committee markup on July 1, while the Energy-Water bill funding the Department of Energy, the Corps of Engineers, and the Bureau of Reclamation will be marked up in subcommittee on July 12 with a full committee markup on July 16.
The House has approved spending caps for the bills, which would match the President’s budget request. The plan would seek increases for energy and environmental programs as part of an overall boost of about 16% for domestic spending.
Highway Bill Advances in the House
The traditional five-year authorized Highway Bill – the “Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America Act” (INVEST in America Act), the counterpart to the Senate’s Transportation Authorization Act of 2021, will be voted on the week of June 28th. It provides $547 billion in three areas: Roads, Bridges, and Safety ($343 billion); Transit ($109 billion); and Passenger and Freight Rail ($95 billion). A Committee fact sheet is here, a copy of the bill (an amendment in the nature of a substitute) is here, and a section-by-section summary of the bill is here. “Thematic summaries” are located here.