It’s hard to imagine, but it’s been more than one year since the hard-fought 2016 presidential election. As the Trump administration continues to deliver on campaign promises and implement its agenda, federal agencies still struggle to fill high-level, politically appointed positions.
Filling these high-level positions with much-needed decision makers will help set the direction of the respective agencies and offices.
Hopefully, by the time you read this, the candidates below will have all been confirmed by the U.S. Senate. It’s important to note, though, that things can move very slowly inside the Beltway.
That being said, as the Trump administration tries to deliver on its promise to make America “energy dominant,” the Trump nominees below will have an impact on midstream operations.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt needs a No. 2 behind him and he has nominated Andrew Wheeler to be the EPA’s deputy administrator. Truth be told, Andrew is my former boss and hired me to work for him and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., at the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), so I may be a little biased in my support of Andrew.
Andrew was previously staff director of the EPW committee, and prior to that he worked for the EPA. After Andrew left the Senate, he went into private practice at Faegre Baker Daniels, working as a lobbyist. He is viewed as a seasoned hand and policy expert who will bring more than two decades of environmental and energy policy experience to the EPA. He is a Clean Air Act expert who is very knowledgeable about midstream issues. His nomination has been sent to the U.S. Senate, and we expect him to be confirmed by year-end 2017.
One of the most important offices at the EPA is the Office of Air and Radiation (OAR). This office is the tip of the spear when it comes to Clean Air Act issues. One of the major issues for the midstream industry is methane emissions, which falls under OAR’s jurisdiction. The Trump nominee to serve as assistant administrator for OAR is William (Bill) Wehrum. Bill serves as partner and head of the administrative law group at Hunton & Williams, where his practice is centered on air quality issues, compliance counseling and enforcement defense.
Prior to this role, he served at the EPA during the George W. Bush administration. He understands midstream issues and is a sought-after legal expert on Clean Air Act issues facing the oil and gas industry. Also in terms of full disclosure, the GPA Midstream Association has previously retained Bill’s services several times and found his legal acumen and insight to be unmatched. He will be an asset for the EPA.
Susan Bodine has been nominated to be assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA). OECA’s focus is on enforcement. She has nearly 30 years of experience in environmental law. I have worked with Susan previously and can attest that she is one of the brightest legal minds out there.
Susan’s most recent experience is working on the Hill, most recently serving under U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., as his EPW chief counsel. She also previously served in the George W. Bush administration at the EPA.
Howard R. Elliott was recently confirmed by the U.S Senate and is in place as administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) at the U.S. Department of Transportation. Elliott is highly qualified to take the helm of PHMSA given his 40-year career in the freight industry and his experience serving as vice president of public safety, health, environment and security for CSX Transportation.
PHMSA is processing the “Gas Mega Rule,” which has the potential to substantially increase regulations on the midstream industry.
David Ross has been nominated to lead the EPA’s Office of Water. The major issue that the Office of Water will address is revising the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. Ross currently leads the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Environmental Protection Unit. He is an environmental law attorney who has focused on water quality and resource management issues throughout his career. The midstream industry will be impacted by several upcoming rulemakings that the Office of Water will be working on, including the WOTUS rule. We also expect Ross to be confirmed by the end of this year.
These five nominees bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to their respective agencies. If confirmed, they will help advance the Trump administration’s agenda and have a positive impact on the midstream.
Matthew Hite is vice president of government affairs for the GPA Midstream Association.