With a promise of regulatory rollback still ringing in the air, the new administration and a conservative-led congress started 2017 making an attempt to fulfill campaign promises.
The push has largely been applauded by Wyoming’s fossil fuel industries, which had long argued against the Obama era of increasing limits on the energy industries via environmental regulations. Advocates for the environment in the state, meanwhile, began a steady resistance to the new direction from D.C.
By early spring, Congress had axed a number of Obama’s late additions to the regulatory framework, though it failed to push through one of the most contentious — a rule limiting methane emissions from oil and gas development.
Strongly supported by the environmental side, the Bureau of Land Management rule made it through the Congressional house cleaning. Industry has continued to seek relief from the rule, however, and the Interior Department has repeatedly tried to comply.
It was finally successful staving off compliance on key provisions of the rule in October.
Environmental groups have sued over the Interior’s decision.
While Congress has gone after specific rules, the Interior Department and other agencies have taken a broader approach.
Mandated by the Trump Administration to review regulations that are overly burdensome to energy development, agencies have been opening up rules to changes throughout the year.
Perhaps the most expected, but consequential for Wyoming, was the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to take steps rolling back the Clean Power Plan.
The plan is currently in limbo in the courts as the EPA seeks to review, rewrite or abolish the plan limiting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
Most agree that the EPA is under a legal obligation to deal with the greenhouse gas emissions that have been found hazardous to human health by the EPA and the courts.
In mid-December, the agency kicked off a 60-day comment period soliciting feedback on what a replacement rule would look like and how it would balance its legal obligations with state and industry flexibility.
The moratorium on new coal leases also bit the dust in 2017, but few expect a positive impact on the Wyoming coal sector as a result.
The administration has been quite successful in repealing or delaying environmental rules from the last eight years. Industry is hopeful, and environmental groups are documenting their losses.
There remains a degree of uncertainty over what the regulatory landscape will look like in the coming years, what regulation repeals will be held up in the courts and what the long-term impacts on energy and the environment in the Cowboy State will be.