How the Trump Administration is Tilting EPA Priorities in Favor of Oil & Gas Production

Summary of EPA Programs and Activities Slashed and Eliminated In the 2018 Budget Proposal

EPA’s FY17 Performance Plan includes 37 programs and targeted activities aimed at addressing increased public health and environmental risks that communities across the US are experiencing from oil and gas production.  In several instances, the Agency requested additional funding to effectively implement these activities.

The Trump Administration’s FY18 proposed budget slashes funding for all of these oil-and-gas related activities, outright eliminating many.  Below is a summary description and some details about what each of these programs and activities does.

More details about each program/activity can be found on the referenced worksheet tab in our detailed analysis @ EPA's budget and performance plan pre- and post-Pruitt (FY 2017 vs. FY 2018. 

Air pollution control standards

In 2016, EPA issued a final rule setting emission limits on methane (& VOCs) leaks (New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for the oil and natural gas sector) 

      • Implementation of the rule is delayed, and the standards in the rule are being rolled back
      • Scott Pruitt directed states to not enforce the the new standards,

Pollution control technology (RACT) guidelines for the oil & gas sector (leak capture equipment)  - not addressed in FY18.

EPA' proposed standards for emissions of toxic air pollutants from petroleum refineries - not addressed in FY18.

Related: 2017 Enforcement priorities
Compliance and Enforcement Tab)

"Cutting hazardous air pollutants from petroleum refineries and the oil & gas sector" - not addressed in FY18.

"Ensuring protective energy extraction" (natural gas focus) - not addressed in FY18.

EPA has also withdrawn its nationwide information request for the Oil and Natural Gas Industry. (Information requests are a critical first step in identifying non-complying operators.)

Methane reduction

Natural Gas STAR Methane Challenge - eliminated

Coalbed Methane Outreach Program (methane recovery) - eliminated

EPA Indoor Air/ asthma programs eliminated

Methane and VOCs emitted from oil & gas operations contribute to development of ozone smog, Increased asthma attacks, triggered by ozone smog, have increasingly been linked to oil & gas production.

In response to increasing numbers of asthma sufferers (especially children) EPA has focused more of its discretionary Indoor Air Program funding on asthma-related programs.

In FY17, these programs included:

  • Training & networking on asthma triggers for healthcare professionals.
  • Indoor Air Quality/ asthma management in schools.
  • Indoor airPLUS program for homes & schools
  • Asthma management support to disadvantaged communities
  • Coordinated Federal Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Asthma Disparities

In FY18, all of these programs are eliminated.

Air Quality Research

"Air quality impacts from unconventional oil and gas activities" - not addressed in FY18.

This is a cross-agency program, including EPA, Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of the Interior (DOI).

Coastal & Marine Programs

In 2017, EPA finalized a series of enforcement settlements for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon/Gulf of Mexico oil spill. These settlements resulted in payments in excess of $20 billion in natural resource damages and civil penalties from BP and other oil drilling operators.

The FY 2018 plan says, “Natural resource restoration actions [for RESTORE] are continuing.”  However:

  • The Gulf of Mexico Regional water program is eliminated
  • EPA’s Marine Pollution program (which provides staffing and technical support to RESTORE activities) is eliminated. 

In addition to supporting Gulf of Mexico restoration, the Marine Pollution program’s FY17 priorities were:

  • Addressing Pollution from Vessels, Marinas, and Ports
  • Ocean Dumping Management Program (including Dredged Material)
  • Ocean and Coastal Acidification
  • Reducing Marine Trash
  • Coral Reef Protection

Funding for EPA’s Wetlands Program (which oversees Army COE permitting for Gulf restoration activities) is reduced by 15%

Enforcement oversight of the Deepwater Horizon settlements is not addressed in FY18.

Research  - Oil Spills & Cleanup

  • Develop or revise protocols to test oil spill control agents for use in deep water and arctic conditions - continuing
    • Note that the EPA programs addressing marine pollution are all slated for elimination
  • Develop improved characterization and remediation methods for fuels - not addressed in FY18

Drinking Water Protection

Funding reduced by ~15%

Groundwater protection: Underground Injection Control (UIC) (permit programs)

Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) Drinking Water Study - not addressed in FY18

In FY 2017, research devoted to unconventional oil and gas activities will focus on understanding and preventing potential impacts on water quality and ecosystems.

Fracking best practices to protect drinking water - not addressed in FY18:

  • FY17:  "Encourage states to apply best practices contained in the EPA’s 2014 guidance for hydraulic fracturing activities and  participate in agency- wide activities to improve safety of unconventional oil and natural gas operation."
    • FY18: Identify best practices in oil and gas development, such as reuse and recycling of produced water (with the Ground Water Protection Council, Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, and the National Rural Water Association).

Aquifer exemption requests for oil & gas and mineral extraction: create national consistency - continuing.

Disposal wells compliance: Promoting voluntary strategies for improving compliance with Class regulations - continuing.

Oversight of state and Tribal agencies' management of oil and gas recovery and disposal wells -  not addressed in FY18.

Funding for Underground Injection Control (UIC)  Grants (supporting compliance & enforcement activity by States & Tribes) -  reduced by ~30%.

Geologic Sequestration of CO2 (injection wells) - not addressed in FY18.

Underground Storage Tanks/Leaking Underground Storage Tanks (cleanup programs)

This program addresses petroleum and hazardous substances stored below ground.  In FY18 program funding for this program is reduced by ~48%

Leaking Underground Storage Tank Prevention program - eliminated

Underground Storage Tanks grants to States & Tribes (program support) - eliminated

Leaking Underground Storage Tank Clean up program:

  • EPA’s portion of funding reduced by ~30%
  • LUST (cleanup) Cooperative Agreements (State funding) reduced by ~30%

Oil Spill Prevention, Preparedness and Emergency Response

Funding reduced by ~15%

Spill Prevention/Containment

EPA conducts oil spill prevention, preparedness, compliance assistance and enforcement activities associated with more than 640,000 non-transportation-related oil storage facilities that the EPA regulates through its spill prevention program.

In FY 17, EPA’s goal was to bring 60% of SPCC facilities that were found to be non-compliant (during FY 2010 through FY 2016) into compliance.

  • No compliance targets are identified in 2018 (and the 2017 performance assessment was not included in the FY18 Congressional Budget Justification.)

Facility Response Plans

The largest and highest risk oil storage facilities and refineries must prepare facility response plans (FRPs) to identify response resources and ensure their availability in the event of a worst case discharge. EPA’s regulated universe includes approximately 4,400 FRP facilities.

In FY 17, EPA’s goal was to bring 60% of FRP facilities that were found to be non-compliant (during FY 2010 through FY 2016) into compliance. EPA requested additional funding for inspections at high risk facilities. “These inspections require more extensive resources due to the complex nature of the facilities and the remote location of some facilities.”

  • In 2018, neither inspections nor compliance targets are identified for high risk facilities (and the 2017 performance assessment was not included in the FY18 Congressional Budget Justification.)

Emergency Preparedness  - Oil Spill Program

This program addresses leaks from petroleum stored aboveground, as well as spills/leaks from transportation of petroleum products and from petroleum production facilities.

EPA serves as the lead responder for cleanup of all inland zone spills, including transportation related spills from pipelines, trucks, railcars, and other transportation systems and provides technical assistance and support to the U.S. Coast Guard for coastal and maritime oil spills.

  • In FY18, EPA’s support to the U.S.Coast Guard for response to coastal and maritime appears to be reduced:  “EPA’s responsibility to respond to inland oil spills within 12 hours cannot be delegated or shared with any other federal agency, state, or local government.”

EPA provides training and exercise development & implementation for spill responders (states, local communities, tribes and other federal officials) and provides technical assistance to industry, states, and local communities as part of the agency’s effort to ensure national safety and security for chemical and oil incidents.  

In FY 2017, EPA identified as a priority “training emergency responders on risks of spills associated with the rapid expansion in production and transportation of crude shale oils… These oils, such as Bakken and Dilbit, are particularly risky due to their highly explosive nature.”

  • In FY18, EPA’s training and technical assistance to responders appears to be  considerably scaled back: “Deliver required annual oil spill inspector training to federal and state inspectors.”

Related: Superfund Emergency Response Program 

Funding reduced by ~20%

Chemical facility safety: State and Local
Prevention and Preparedness

This program has responsibility to create the national regulatory framework to prevent, prepare for, and respond to catastrophic accidental chemical releases at industrial facilities throughout the United States.

Program funding in FY18 is reduced by ~ 35%

Risk Management Program Rule

This (final) Rule was created in response to recommendations from the Chemical Facility Safety and Security Working Group following the 2013 fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas. 

Following Scott Pruitt’s appointment as EPA Administrator, seven industry trade associations  petitioned for reconsideration of the rule (American Chemistry Council, American Forest & Paper Association, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, the American Petroleum Institute, USA Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, Utility Air Regulatory Group)

  • Implementation of this rule has been delayed, and the Administration has taken steps to roll back the rule.

In addition, the FY18 Trump budget proposal:

  • Eliminates the Chemical Safety Board
  • Scales Back EPA’s national response coordination and training activities for local responders
  • Increased inspections, training & compliance at high risk chemical facilities was an EPA priority in FY17. Its status is unclear in FY18.

Related: 2017 Enforcement priority
Compliance and Enforcement Tab)

"Reducing Risks of Accidental Releases at Industrial and Chemical Facilities (Fiscal Years 2017-19)" - not addressed in FY 2018

Funding is reduced by ~ 38%.

EPA publishes a public report each year providing data about releases of pollutants and toxic substances into air, water, and soils from approximately 20,000 industrial and federal facilities (for the previous year).  This report and associated stakeholder engagement activities are is being scaled back in FY18.

In FY 17, EPA said: “The TRI program will continue to publish the annual TRI National Analysis, describing relevant trends in toxic chemical releases and other waste management; industry sector profiles and parent company analyses; and TRI information reported from facilities in specific urban communities, large aquatic ecosystems, Indian country, and Alaska Native Villages. The TRI program will continue to foster stakeholder discussions and collaborations in analyzing and using the TRI data, including with such stakeholders as industry, government, academia, non-governmental organizations, and the public.”

• In FY 18, the Trump Administration says: “ Operations and maintenance will be reduced to meet statutory requirements for industry reporting and public access to TRI data.”

Also reduced in FY18:

• Facility compliance and enforcement assistance activities are not addressed.

• Activities aimed at “enhancing  the regulatory foundation of TRI to ensure community access to data on toxic chemical releases and other waste management and pollution prevention activities at facilities (i.e, clarify toxic chemical reporting requirements, improve the reporting experience, explore opportunities to use this valuable information, and share pollution prevention approaches with industry)”  are not addressed in FY 18.

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Save EPA has been an all-volunteer group of former EPA officials who became alarmed about the Trump agenda for EPA and joined together to fight it.

With newly-elected President-Elect Biden and VP-Elect Harris coming in January, the need to "save EPA" is much less urgent. This is not to imply all clear skies ahead - there is much re-building to do, there will be negative pressures on the new administration, and we will likely have policy differences in the future. However, we are hopeful that these differences will be discussed rationally, using science as a basis for moving forward, and keeping EPA's mission of protecting human health and the environment in the forefront.

And so, we are going back to retirement!  We're keeping our website up at , as a resource for those who want to follow and influence the restoration work. Our report on the Trump record at EPA describes the actions that need to be reversed [], and our guide to participating in the rulemaking process [] can help you be part of the solution.

Thank you for your support and commitment during the past 3.5 years.  While the Trump assaults were unending, they were also frequently unsuccessful, and that was due in large part to public outrage.  Keep it up!  Although EPA will be in much better hands with a Biden administration, there is always a need for an informed and engaged public.

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