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Environmental Regulation & Legislation

Environmental legislation interacts with the oil and gas industry from a variety of different angles. Legislation routinely expands and contracts regulatory authority, and new executive administrations change the country’s regulatory dynamics. Some legislation creates mandates for regulatory authorities. The timeline below is a partial picture of U.S. environmental legislation through the years.

Federal Water Pollution Control Act

This legislation evolved into the Clean Water Act.

Air Pollution Control Act

This law authorized the U.S. Surgeon General to conduct research on the effects of, prevention of, and abatement of air pollution.

Clean Air Act

In response to the Surgeon General’s research, Congress passed comprehensive air quality laws with jurisdiction over emissions limitations, ozone protection, and noise pollution. This legislation was amended and expanded in 1965, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1977, and 1990.

Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act

This law amended the Clean Air Act of 1963 and set the first round of federal vehicle emissions standards.

National Environmental Policy Act

This legislation provides a guiding policy for environmental legislation and regulation in the United States by outlining national policies and goals, establishing federal agencies to enforce policy, and establishing the executive Council on Environmental Quality.

Occupational Health and Safety Act

This legislation created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH).

Federal Water Pollution Control Act

This law provided the authority for regulating point source discharges and for setting water quality and technology-based standards to the EPA.

Safe Water Drinking Act

This legislation expands the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set standards for drinking water quality for all public water systems in the United States and addresses groundwater contamination.

Toxic Substances Control Act

Through this legislation, the EPA received the authority to regulate the manufacture and sale of chemicals and to evaluate the risks of new chemicals before they enter the market.

Clean Water Act

This legislation added exemptions to the Water Pollution Control Act of 1972.

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act

Congress created a trust fund to pay for clean up of sites contaminated by hazardous substances and pollutants.

Oil Pollution Act

This law assigns liability for the cost and clean up of damages related to oil spills from vessels and facilities.

Energy Policy Act

This legislation exempted fluids used in hydraulic fracturing from the provisions of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Water Drinking Act, and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. It also exempts oil and gas companies from disclosing the chemicals composing hydraulic fracturing fluids.

Energy Independence and Security Act

This legislation originally considered reducing the subsidies for the oil and gas industry, however through debate and amendment it evolved into an increase in average fuel economy, appliance and building efficiency, and expanding the renewable fuel standard.

Changes in environmental legislation occur over time in response to new and emerging public concerns, trends in the halls of government, and dynamic lobbying pressure both inside and outside of Washington.

Along with what occurs at the federal level across North America, there is also a considerable quantity of environmental regulation that is written at the state and provincial level.  Often these emerging regulatory protocols can be some of the most impactful, as the development of unconventional energy resources proceeds.  One of the strengths of interagency meetings, is that they create a sharing of successful environmental regulation between participating state and provincial officials, along with illustrating the most efficient and effective inspection procedures when working with the rapidly evolving oil and gas industry. These state level regulations, as they are continually developed, often then drive similar initiatives from the federal government.

It is also worth noting, that in the area of energy, global factors, from consortiums of governments, non-governmental organizations, and industry itself, is also influencing environmental regulation impacting North American energy development.  This progress is seen in areas such as fugitive methane emissions, water usage, and higher-level climate initiatives impacting local energy development.  Due to increasing scientific and societal concerns related to climate, this will only grow in significance as a force influencing environmental regulations in the U.S. and Canada.


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