Trump will roll back more environmental regulations if re-elected, says EPA chief

Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), speaks during a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, May 20, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Al Drago | Getty Images

President Donald Trump will continue to weaken environmental regulations on industries if re-elected for a second term in November, while working to complete Superfund cleanup projects, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Andrew Wheeler. 

The Trump administration in a second term would establish a cost-benefit analysis of any new regulation and expand the use of “science transparency” in order to justify the science behind implementing new regulations, Wheeler said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. The EPA also plans to continue working on cleanup efforts at Superfund sites that have gotten delayed. 

“We need to make sure we are speaking to people where they live and we’re addressing the problems they see on a daily basis,” Wheeler told The Journal.

After three years in office, the Trump administration is reversing more than 100 major climate and environmental rules that it’s deemed burdensome to the fossil fuel industry, even as climate change accelerates and global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. Analysts say many of the administration’s rollbacks could increase emissions and lead to thousands of additional deaths from bad air quality. 

Among many rollbacks to rules that protect air, water and land, the administration repealed and replaced the Obama-era emissions rules for power plants and vehicles, weakened the country’s landmark environmental law, cut protections for most of the country’s wetlands and weakened regulations on methane, a potent climate-changing gas.

Some of the rollbacks have been criticized by businesses they’re meant to help, including some major oil and gas producers looking to reduce their carbon footprint. Many of the reversals also face legal challenges from environmental groups and states. 

As the November presidential election approaches, the Trump administration has worked quickly to finish some of its major regulatory goals, as some of the new rules could be reversed if Democrats win control of the White House and Congress.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has released a plan to put $2 trillion into green infrastructure and energy over four years to curb climate change and spur economic growth, which the Trump campaign has argued would hurt the oil and gas industry. 

“The Obama-Biden administration only focused on climate change at the expense of the communities here in the United States and the expense of reducing pollution where people live,” Wheeler said. 

Read the full interview in The Wall Street Journal. 

Chesapeake Energy, a pioneer in the U.S. shale revolution, files for bankruptcy protection

A worker on a Chesapeake Energy natural gas rig in Fort Worth, Texas

Matt Nager | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Chesapeake Energy, the poster child of the U.S. shale revolution, filed for bankruptcy protection on Sunday. The move comes as the company and industry more broadly has been rocked by a drop in oil and gas prices amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The heavily indebted company has been in trouble for some time, and in May said that it had concerns regarding its long-term viability.

Chesapeake said that $7 billion in debt will be wiped out through the restructuring. The company has secured $925 million in debtor-in-possession financing in order to continue operations, as well as an additional $600 million commitment for new equity once the company emerges from bankruptcy.

Franklin Resources and Fidelity are among the biggest creditors, according to people close to the company, and they will be among the primary equity holders following the company’s restructuring. The company will continue operations at a much reduced capacity, with a handful of gas rigs and no oil rigs, according to those familiar with the company’s plans.

“We are fundamentally resetting Chesapeake’s capital structure and business to address our legacy financial weaknesses and capitalize on our substantial operational strengths,” CEO Doug Lawler said in a statement. 

Chesapeake Energy was founded in 1989 by Aubrey McClendon. An early pioneer of horizontal drilling, he built the company into a key player in the U.S. gas industry. At its peak, Chesapeake had 175 operating rigs, with operations across the U.S. including in Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

But the company took on a lot of debt to fuel its rapid expansion, and from 2010 to 2012 spent $30 billion more in drilling and leasing than it made from its operations.

McClendon was ultimately ousted from the company in 2013, and in 2016 was indicted on federal charges of conspiring to rig bids for oil and natural gas leases for a new venture he had started. The following day, McClendon perished in a car crash.

When current CEO Dough Lawler succeeded him, the company had nearly as much debt as Exxon and Chevron combined.

“Over the last several years, our dedicated employees have transformed Chesapeake’s business — improving capital efficiency and operational performance, eliminating costs, reducing debt and diversifying our portfolio,” Lawler said in a statement. “Despite having removed over $20 billion of leverage and financial commitments, we believe this restructuring is necessary for the long-term success and value creation of the business.”

Chesapeake’s downturn is not unique. Whiting Petroleum is among the other once great drillers that couldn’t survive a historic plunge in oil prices. The company filed for bankruptcy protection on April 1.

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