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Trump backed overhaul of environmental rules lauded by Wyoming energy sector
Trump backed overhaul of environmental rules lauded by Wyoming energy sector
The Trump administration’s proposed overhaul of a landmark environmental act won widespread praise throughout Wyoming’s energy sector.
The Trump administration’s proposed overhaul of a landmark environmental act won widespread praise throughout Wyoming’s energy sector.

As it stands, the National Environmental Policy Act requires the government to undertake sweeping environmental reviews of proposed infrastructure projects, investigating how potential development could impact the nation’s land, air, wildlife and water resources.

But the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality received a directive from President Donald Trump in 2017 to update the rules, which Trump considered a major barrier to completing critical infrastructure developments — pipelines, wind turbines, roads and more. The agency released a draft set of rules for public review Thursday.

“For years, NEPA regulations have been like quicksand to the regulated communities. The more they try to comply, the deeper into the regulatory muck they sink,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette said in a statement.

In a change overwhelmingly welcomed by energy groups, federal regulators will have a mandate under the new rules to complete environmental reviews within two years. Environmental assessments will need to be completed on a one-year timeline. Right now, environmental impact statements take an average of 4.5 years.

“It’s really difficult to plan an oil and gas drilling project in advance and wait that long and (the new rules) will only expedite the process,” said Steven Reid, president of Vertex Energy, an oil and gas company working in Laramie County. “And two years is still going to allow plenty of time to do a proper evaluation and proper environmental protections.”

Wyoming’s checkerboard of private and public land is unique among other energy-intensive states. The state produces more energy on federal land than almost any other state in the country, requiring many operators to complete reviews and obtain permits at multiple levels of government.

The lengthy regulatory requirements place the state at a grave disadvantage in the energy market, according to Paul Ulrich, vice president of government and regulatory affairs at Jonah Energy, a leading natural gas producer operating in Wyoming’s Green River Basin.

Companies turn to other states when federal environmental reviews become too long and cumbersome, he said.

“When we start these projects in earnest, it’s because we have a strong belief that we can participate in the market in a timely manner based on that significant capital investment,” Ulrich continued. “If a project takes five to 10 years, we have a responsibility to take that capital elsewhere.”

While Wyoming-based companies like Jonah Energy have elected to wait out the regulatory hurdles in the state, other, larger companies have fled to more lucrative areas, he explained. In Ulrich’s mind, that has a cumulative financial loss for Wyoming.

Wyoming operators stressed the industry’s commitment to continuing to undertake environmental reviews, even though such requirements are curtailed under the new rules.
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Trump backed overhaul of environmental rules lauded by Wyoming energy sector
Trump backed overhaul of environmental rules lauded by Wyoming energy sector
The Trump administration’s proposed overhaul of a landmark environmental act won widespread praise throughout Wyoming’s energy sector.
The Trump administration’s proposed overhaul of a landmark environmental act won widespread praise throughout Wyoming’s energy sector. As it stands, the National Environmental Policy Act requires the government to undertake sweeping environmental reviews of proposed infrastructure projects, investigating how potential development could impact the nation’s land, air, wildlife and water resources. But the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality received a directive from President Donald Trump in 2017 to update the rules, which Trump considered a major barrier to completing critical infrastructure developments — pipelines, wind turbines, roads and more. The agency released a draft set of rules for public review Thursday. “For years, NEPA regulations have been like quicksand to the regulated communities. The more they try to comply, the deeper into the regulatory muck they sink,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette said in a statement. In a change overwhelmingly welcomed by energy groups, federal regulators will have a mandate under the new rules to complete environmental reviews within two years. Environmental assessments will need to be completed on a one-year timeline. Right now, environmental impact statements take an average of 4.5 years. “It’s really difficult to plan an oil and gas drilling project in advance and wait that long and (the new rules) will only expedite the process,” said Steven Reid, president of Vertex Energy, an oil and gas company working in Laramie County. “And two years is still going to allow plenty of time to do a proper evaluation and proper environmental protections.” Wyoming’s checkerboard of private and public land is unique among other energy-intensive states. The state produces more energy on federal land than almost any other state in the country, requiring many operators to complete reviews and obtain permits at multiple levels of government. The lengthy regulatory requirements place the state at a grave disadvantage in the energy market, according to Paul Ulrich, vice president of government and regulatory affairs at Jonah Energy, a leading natural gas producer operating in Wyoming’s Green River Basin. Companies turn to other states when federal environmental reviews become too long and cumbersome, he said. “When we start these projects in earnest, it’s because we have a strong belief that we can participate in the market in a timely manner based on that significant capital investment,” Ulrich continued. “If a project takes five to 10 years, we have a responsibility to take that capital elsewhere.” While Wyoming-based companies like Jonah Energy have elected to wait out the regulatory hurdles in the state, other, larger companies have fled to more lucrative areas, he explained. In Ulrich’s mind, that has a cumulative financial loss for Wyoming. Wyoming operators stressed the industry’s commitment to continuing to undertake environmental reviews, even though such requirements are curtailed under the new rules.



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