Cassidy leads call for withdrawal of proposed offshore energy air quality rule

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) recently led a request for a proposed offshore energy production rule to be dropped in light of insufficient evidence that it would benefit air quality.

A letter led by Cassidy to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell argues that the proposed Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) rule, “Air Quality Control, Reporting and Compliance,” should be withdrawn because there is no proof that offshore energy production impacts onshore air quality.

“The proposal greatly expands the regulatory program and could impact more than 2,200 existing facilities offshore,” the letter states. “Offshore oil and natural gas production are essential to U.S. energy supply. Rather than hinder this production, the department should seek ways to further our energy security.”

Under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, BOEM has the statutory authority to regulate emissions from outer continental shelf sources. A provision of the act, however, states that offshore oil and gas production have significant effects on onshore air quality.

“However, BOEM’s own National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents including the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the 2012-2017 OCS oil and natural gas leasing program and the resulting lease sale EISs have shown that offshore activities do no significantly impact onshore air quality,” the letter states.

The letter adds that BOEM has undertaken two air modeling studies at a cost of $4 million to determine whether any rulemaking would be necessary, but that the study results are not expected until 2017.

“BOEM must complete these studies to determine which state air quality impacts, if any, should be attributed to OCS authorized activities,” the letter states.

U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Thad Cochran (R-MS), John Thune (R-SD), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Steve Daines (R-MT), John Hoeven (R-ND) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) were among the 17 senators who signed the letter.

Wicker called BOEM’s proposed air quality rule “unnecessary” in calling for its withdrawal.

“The agency has already proved that this regulation would not make a significant impact on making inland air cleaner,” Wicker said. “This is a solution in search of a problem. It is clear that regulatory action is not scientifically justified.”

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