Federal lawmakers are pushing for changes to a stringent new air pollution standard imposed during the Obama administration, and the outcome of the debate will have major consequences for states and local communities in the West. The bipartisan Ozone Standards Implementation Act (H.R. 806) would give state and local officials more time – until 2025 – to meet the 70 ppb standard. A hearing this week of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, lawmakers and state environmental regulators discussed problems with a new ozone benchmark imposed by the Obama administration in late 2015. The decision to tighten the standard from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 70 ppb drew bipartisan opposition from a broad coalition of stakeholders, including the U.S. Conference of Mayors and National Association of Counties.
The federal government’s long-awaited approval of the Keystone XL pipeline is welcome news in Montana, with a key state lawmaker calling the decision a victory for local economies and for safety. “We’re very happy,” Montana state Sen. Mike Lang (R) told Western Wire. Lang is the sponsor of a pro-Keystone resolution in the state legislature. It cleared the Senate last month in a 41-9 vote, with almost half the chamber’s Democrats joining Republicans to pass the bill. The resolution calls for the prompt approval of the pipeline, which was blocked for years by the Obama administration under pressure from “keep it in the ground” environmental groups.
Representatives of a national “ban fracking” activist group attempted to organize a rally to pressure U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) on environmental policy but failed to draw much of a crowd. The event, held outside Sen. Bennet’s Denver office yesterday, was organized by Food & Water Watch and 350.org, two East Coast activist groups campaigning to ban oil and natural gas development in Colorado and around the country.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) has joined a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the Obama administration’s “venting and flaring” rule, issued late last year, which targets oil and natural gas development on federal lands. Paxton’s intervention means four states – Texas, North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana – are now in federal court trying to strike down the rule imposed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in November. Western officials are also leading a separate effort to repeal the venting and flaring rule in Congress. “This is yet another case of gross federal overreach,” Paxton said in a statement to Western Wire.
New Mexico business leaders are pushing back against a campaign led by environmental activists to save a last-minute regulation from the Obama administration targeting oil and natural development. The New Mexico Business Coalition says the “venting and flaring” rule imposed late last year “clouds the regulatory environment” for one of the state’s most important industries. The rule, finalized by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) two months before President Barack Obama left office, adds to existing state and federal regulations that limit methane emissions. “An ax, not a scalpel, is needed on BLM’s venting and flaring rule,” the group says.
In a victory for local officials and energy producers in the West, the Trump administration confirmed this week that a federal regulation for hydraulic fracturing on public lands won’t be imposed on top of existing state rules that already apply. The federal hydraulic fracturing regulation, issued by U.S. Bureau of Land Management two years ago during the Obama administration, was struck down by a federal judge in 2016. Obama officials appealed, but this week the Trump administration told the court it would no longer contest the case and plans to withdraw the regulation.
Two lawmakers from North Dakota, the second largest oil-producing state in the nation, are turning up the heat on the U.S. Senate to repeal a last-minute Obama administration regulation targeting energy development on federal lands. At the same time, a national pro-business group is calling on the Senate to act, launching a multi-media advertising campaign targeting North Dakota and five other states.