President Trump’s executive order on energy independence reached a crucial first deadline over the weekend for all agencies to report regulations that could hurt energy production from fossil fuels, marking the opening salvo of what is expected to become the Trump energy agenda.
Although he has signed orders to establish task forces to review and dismantle all manner of regulations, his latest energy independence order and another on offshore drilling are probably the most centered on what will become Trump’s environmental and energy policy legacy in the next four years.
But it also contains three big deadlines that will make up his regulatory agenda on energy for the rest of the year. The deadlines include:
- An all-hands-on-deck directive for a multiagency energy impact review to be submitted 45 days after the order was signed. That deadline was reached Friday.
The executive order calls for an immediate review of “all agency actions that potentially burden the safe, efficient development of domestic energy resources.”
It requires the heads of agencies to review “all existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies and any other similar agency actions (collectively, agency actions) that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources, with particular attention to oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy resources.”
“What they’re doing is mixing the economics with the danger,” said Jim Ferraro, a lawyer well-known for successfully litigating against chemical giant DuPont. He sees the review process as basically a run around climate change regulations to benefit fossil fuel companies.
It’s meant to judge whether “there is something really here that they consider to be a real hardcore, serious danger that will trump the economics of it or is it … cheaper to sell oil,” Ferraro said.
Each agency will submit its reviews to the White House Office of Management and Budget, Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s economic advisers.
- The second deadline comes 75 days after the first, or 120 days after the order was signed. At that point, the head of each agency must submit a draft final report detailing the actions the agency will take, including specific recommendations, that, “to the extent permitted by law, could alleviate or eliminate aspects of agency actions that burden domestic energy production.”
- The third deadline comes at the 180-day mark, when the recommendations the agencies submitted are finalized into action.
“If you look at everything the administration wants to do on the energy and environment front, and on the regulatory front, I think everyone envisions that it’s going to be a long process that’s not going to end” once the deadlines are met, said Sam Batkins, director of regulation at the free-market American Action Forum.
“All of these are going to have to go through the same notice and comment rulemaking process that the original regulations did in the first place,” he said. “I think the only real difference is that we will have the sense of which regulations and which policies from the previous administration they may want to keep and the ones they want to significantly amend or repeal,” Batkins said.
Based on the executive orders, the administration has made it clear that it wants to rescind the Clean Power Plan. “But pretty much no one predicts resolution of the Clean Power Plan will happen in the first term of this administration,” Batkins said.
Rolling back the “big-ticket” regulations on energy and the environment will take a minimum of four to five years, he said.
What people should expect sooner is a “Unified Agenda” on regulations and deregulation that Batkins said could be compiled as soon as the end of May. The regulatory agenda will show what regulations the administration is targeting, from energy to financial to healthcare, and what rules it supports.