Regulatory Uncertainty and New Source Performance Standards on Methane

Date01 June 2022
AuthorSebastián Luengo Troncoso
by Sebastián Luengo Troncoso
Sebastián Luengo Troncoso is a UNEP-Georgetown Global Environment and Sustainability
Law Fellow and S.J.D. candidate at Georgetown University. He holds LL.M. degrees
from Georgetown and from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.
Recent U.S. presidential administrations have been
the apex of what scholars have identied as “the rise
of executive-level power, the use of the ‘adminis-
trative presidency,’ and the growing democratic decit.1
Indeed, with legislative gridlock in t he U.S. Congress that
seems to have no end in sight, the use of agencies in the
executive branch has been adopted by both political pa rties
as the main vehicle of policyma king.2
As then-professor, now U.S. Supreme Court Justice
Elena Kagan once proposed, “[a]ll models of administration
must address two core issues: how to make administration
accountable to the public and how to make administration
ecient or otherwise eective.”3 is Comment argues
that eective administration also requires a clear regula-
tory framework for the regulated sector and citizens. It
addresses the recent trend in the United States of regula-
tory uncertainty, caused by polarized politics and a pendu-
lum of persistent rollbacks of regulations. For example, in
the energy sector alone, there are several prominent issues
unsolved or too unstable to recognize a durable long-term
approach, such as the Clean Power Plan disputes,4 frackin g
1. Nancy A. Wonders & Mona J.E. Danner, Regulatory Rollbacks and Deepen-
ing Social Inequalities, 1 J. W C  C. C 103, 103 (2020).
2. See Bethany Davis Noll & Richard Revesz, Regulation in Transition, 104
M. L. R. 1, 3, 10, 84, 98 (2019) [hereinafter Regulation in Transition];
Bethany Davis Noll & Richard Revesz, Presidential Transitions: e New
Rules, 39 Y J.  R. (forthcoming 2022) [hereinafter Presidential
Transitions]; Jessica Bulman-Pozen, Administrative States: Beyond Presidential
Administration, 98 T. L. R. 265, 272 (2019).
3. Elena Kagan, Presidential Administration, 114 H. L. R. 2245, 2331
4. Ryan B. Stoa, From the Clean Power Plan to the Aordable Clean Energy
Rule: How Regulated Entities Adapt to Regulatory Change and Uncertainty, 47
H L. R. 863 (2018); John A. Ormiston, e Clean Power Plan Au-
topsy: Lessons the Aordable Clean Energy Rule Can Learn From Its Deceased
Predecessor, 98 T. L. R. 791 (2019); Regulation in Transition, supra note
2, at 25; Bulman-Pozen, supra note 2, at 324.
regulation disputes,5 oshore oil drilling prohibitions,6 and
the focus of this Comment, the new source performa nce
standards (NSPS) on methane for oil and ga s.
e need to address the impacts of climate cha nge
accentuates this persistent rollback phenomenon. I ndeed,
despite the uncertainty that some cla im,7 it is of course
possible to assert a broad scientic consensus on climate
change’s existence, causes, cha racteristics, and remedies. 8
And a parallel g lobal consensus on the need to develop suf-
cient regulatory frameworks to address climate change
mitigation and adaptation is—th ankfully—tak ing control
of dierent governments’ agendas.9
is Comment acknowledges the ongoing regulatory
uncertainty in t he United States, categorizes it, and explores
theoretical frameworks for presidential transitions. It then
specically analyzes the NSPS on methane for oil and ga s
to exemplify how this regulatory uncertainty, caused by
5. Sorell E. Negro, Fracking Wars: Federal, State, and Local Conicts Over the
Regulation of Natural Gas Activities, 35 Z  P. L. R. 1 (2012);
Robert H. Freilich & Neil M. Popowitz, Oil and Gas Fracking: State and
Federal Regulation Does Not Preempt Needed Local Government Regulation,
44 U. L. 533 (2012); Michael Burger, e (Re)Federalization of Frack-
ing Regulation, 2013 M. S. L. R. 1483 (2013); Barbara Warner &
Jennifer Shapiro, Fractured, Fragmented Federalism: A Study in Fracking
Regulatory Policy, 43 P: J. F 474 (2013).
6. See Exec. Order No. 14008, §208, 86 Fed. Reg. 7619, 7624 (Feb. 1,
2021); Joshua Partlow & Juliet Eilperin, Louisiana Judge Blocks Biden
Administration’s Oil and Gas Leasing Pause, W. P (June 15, 2021),
7. See generally S E. K, U: W C S
T U, W I D’,  W I M (1st ed. 2021); Steven
E. Koonin, Climate Science Is Not Settled, W S. J. (Sept. 19, 2014),
8. See Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Summary for Policymakers,
in C C 2021: T P S B. C
 W G I   S A R   I-
 P  C C (Valérie Masson-Delmotte et
al. eds., Cambridge Univ. Press 2021); Kari De Pryck, Intergovernmental
Expert Consensus in the Making: e Case of the Summary for Policy Makers of
the IPCC 2014 Synthesis Report, 21 G. E’ P. 108 (2021).
9. See A A  ., T  C C L-
 (2017); M N  ., GLOBE I 
G R I, T GLOBE C L
S: A R  C C L  66 C
(4th ed. 2014); W B, W B R G  C-
 C F L (2020); Shaikh Eskander et al.,
Global Lessons From Climate Change Legislation and Litigation, 2 E’ 
E P’  E. 44 (2021).
Author’s Note: The author would like to thank Prof. Mark
W. Menezes for his wise advice and continuing support
during the different drafts of this Comment, without whom
this research would not have been the same.
Copyright © 2022 Environmental Law Institute®, Washington, DC. Reprinted with permission from ELR®,, 1-800-433-5120.

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