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Major energy rule timelines pushed back

The Obama administration is pushing back its timeline for issuing major energy regulations from the Interior Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The delays, announced late Friday in the administration’s semi-annual regulatory agenda update, mean energy companies will have to wait months longer for rules on oil and gas drilling on federal land, protecting streams from mountaintop removal mining, disclosing payments to foreign governments and other actions.

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Interior’s long awaited stream protection rule will now be proposed in April, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said. At the time of its the last regulatory update in the spring, OMB expected the proposal to be made public in December.

The stream protection rule would put new restrictions on mountaintop removal mining, a practice popular in Appalachia that environmentalists say harms streams. It is a re-write of a Bush administration rule that Obama aides found insufficient.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, meanwhile, is once again delaying its rules to require that companies disclose payments to foreign governments for extractive resources such as oil, natural gas or minerals.

That proposal is now expected in October, seven months later than SEC’s last estimate. They should have been made final in 2011 under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

Interior expects to finish major regulatory actions by the end of this month: a final regulation regarding hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas on federal land and proposed rules on offshore oil drilling in the Arctic.

Both of those rules were due to come out in September under the timelines released in the spring.

Interior’s rules for blowout preventers for offshore oil drilling were pushed back three months, and will now be proposed in February.

Those standards are being developed in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Investigators blamed a faulty blowout preventer for the monthslong spill.

OMB said Interior’s rules for venting and flaring natural gas on federal land will now be proposed in April. That is six months later than the last estimate.

Other agencies are largely on track to release major regulations in the same timeframes they previously disclosed.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it will still release new ground-level ozone standards, coal ash disposal rules and a new definition of solid waste for hazardous materials purposes in December.

The EPA’s Friday decision to delay 2014 volumes under the renewable fuel mandate until next year was not reflected in the new agenda.

But the agency did say that it plans to propose 2015’s mandate in May and finalize it by August.

The Energy Department is mostly sticking to its previous timelines for regulations on the efficiency of air conditioners, ceiling fans, electric motors, heaters and other appliances.