Geoscience Policy Monthly Review
april 2017

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House committee hearing considers nuclear waste legislation

April 26, 2017

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment held a hearing on April 26 to examine a discussion draft of a bill that would amend certain provisions of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (NWPA) to streamline management and licensing processes for nuclear waste disposal.

The Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017 proposes a number of changes to the NWPA, including the addition of options to enter into cooperative agreements with respect to monitored retrievable storage facilities. It would revoke Public Land Order 6802, which directs the Department of Energy (DOE) to maintain the physical integrity of the subsurface environment at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, to ensure that scientific studies for site characterization are not adversely impacted. It would withdraw approximately 147,000 acres of land at Yucca Mountain site from all forms of entry, appropriation, and disposal under the previous public land laws, and reserves the withdrawal area for activities associated with the disposal of high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel. The bill also would direct the Secretary of the Interior to submit a management plan for use of the withdrawal area, providing that the Secretary permit non-project related uses that the Secretary considers appropriate, including domestic livestock grazing and hunting.

Sources: Library of Congress, U.S. House of Representatives

Executive order targets offshore leasing plans and regulations

April 28, 2017

President Donald Trump released an executive order targeting the five-year oil and gas leasing plan finalized under the Obama administration. The order, entitled “Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy,” encourages exploration and production on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) of the United States in order to maintain our nation’s position as a global energy leader, while ensuring related activities are safe and environmentally responsible.

The order directs the Secretary of the Interior to consider revising the schedule of proposed oil and gas lease sales, while enduring that any changes do not hinder or affect ongoing sales. It also directs the Secretary to develop and implement a streamlined permitting process for privately funded seismic data research and collection aimed at determining the offshore energy resource potential within the OCS.

The order requires the Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the Secretaries of Defense, Interior, and Homeland Security, to conduct a review of all designations and expansions of National Marine Sanctuaries, and of all designations and expansions of Marine National Monuments under the Antiquities Act of 1906.

Additionally, President Trump’s executive order directs the Secretary of the Interior to review several pre-existing rules, including the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s (BSEE) final rule entitles "Oil and Gas and Sulfur Operations in the Outer Continental Shelf-Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control," the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) proposed rule entitled “Air Quality Control, Reporting, and Compliance,” and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) Technical Memorandum NMFS-OPR-55.

Source: Federal Register, White House Office of the Press Secretary